Monday, 23 February 2015

Pirates, Pandas and Pictures of the Past

 It was another busy day at Toddington on Saturday.  Permanent Way were working hard on reinstating the track in the station area and the Steam Loco Dept was in the throes of getting the home fleet serviceable for the coming season.  Just to give you an idea, here is a view of the car park, remember that this was a non-operating day, all those cars will belong to volunteers.  It takes a lot of hard work to keep a railway like the GWSR running.
Sometimes I think we need a bigger car park.
 Last week I mentioned that Steve was in the workshop creating a tool to clean the superheater headers.  I received an email during the week pointing out that it was a tool to polish the superheater element seats in the header, not the inside of the superheater header itself. Well now you know. That job has since been completed.

Whilst we're on the subject of Foremarke Hall, most of her front coupling has been replaced, as well as the front draw hook.
In the machine shop, about to have the shackle pressed and pinned in place
Later on, after pressing, complete  with the new draw hook
 I didn't need to ask if it was one of the run of draw hooks manufactured by Dinmore Manor Locomotive LTD, the draw hook told its own story.
Fitted and ready for painting.
 As you're probably aware, 4270 is about to pack her bags and head off to the Llangollen Railway for their Steel, Steam & Stars IV gala.  What we hadn't been aware of, was quite how imminently she would be departing.  Needless to say, there were still plenty of jobs that needed doing to get her ready. The large red button with the friendly word "Panic" on the front was pressed.  Apart from anything else, 4270 was still "winterised".  I joined in with helping de-winterise her.

 The first task on the list was to get the sanding pipes fitted at the sand boxes at the front end of the loco.  I had thought that the sand boxes would be outside the frames and easily accessible.  Well the rear ones are, the front ones are between the frames and a bit more tricky to get at.
One of the sand boxes, awaiting the fitting of a sand pipe

Post-job, all sand pipes present and correct.
 We never bother with putting sand in the sand boxes as our gradients aren't steep enough to warrant using sand to aid adhesion to the rails.  The Llangollen and West Somerset Railways that 4270 will shortly be visiting on the other hand may well appreciate the fact that the sand pipes are now in place.

The next job on the list was to refit the injectors. After a bit of a hunt, they turned up in one of the tool boxes in the cab.  Once again, access to the injector bodies was a little restricted, but we got them fitted ok.
Injectors hiding in a tool box.
 A warming fire was required prior to a steam test on Sunday.  It's usually considered good practice to fill the boiler with water before lighting the warming fire, so we got a hose pipe attached to the blow down valve to make that happen.
Blow down valve.
 Filling the boiler with a hose pipe takes a remarkably long time. That gave us an opportunity to crack on with a few more odd jobs such as refitting the fireman's side window which had been re-glazed.  Once again, it turned out to be one of those jobs that sounds simple, but in practice turned out to be a bit fiddly. 
The re-glazed window, ready to be refitted
 I'm only guessing here, but I suspect that the window was broken when somebody closed it whilst one of the fire irons that lives on the fireman's side water tank was protruding back into the cab, you can see how it might happen.
The hole awaiting the return of the window.
 The fiddly bit was that the three holes for the lower hinge to be attached to were largely concealed by one of the water tanks.  The gap between the water tank on the left and the cab on the right was much smaller than I would have liked.  Ian suggested the the best method was to use a pair of pointy nose pliers and insert the bolt from the outside.  I tried this, dropping the bolt into the gap three times and managing to find it again only twice, once it ended up on the apron between the pits, and once in the pit itself.  Heaven knows where it finished up the third time.  After that, we switched to plan B, Ade inserted the bolt from inside the cab and I waited outside with a nut held in the jaws of a pair of pliers.  Amazingly this worked, we didn't drop a single nut or split washer.
Finally, lower hinge bolted into place
Window fitted, Ade looks pleased with a good job well done
 With the boiler finally filled, it was time to light a warming fire.  Jonathan needed the practice, so all I had to do was watch him and make sure he did it right.  There is a long list of things to check before you can light a warming fire, one of which is that that the grate is intact and free of foreign objects.  Well in this case, one of the fire bars has been lifted and was lying loose on the grate.  There was nothing for it, Jonathan would have to go in and refit it.
Jonathan trying to refit the fire bar.
 After around ten minutes of hearing profanities emerge from the fire box, but no Jonathan, I went in to investigate for myself.  I spent a further ten minutes without any joy, the gap was too narrow for the fire bar no matter how much you hit encouraged it with the coal pick or tried to shuffle the fire bars around etc.  There was nothing for it, but to remove half the front row of fire bars and take a grinding wheel to the bits of clinker that had built up on sides of some of them which was preventing them from going back into place.
Jonathan grinding clinker off of the fire bars
 I took pity on Jonathan and went off to fetch him a cup of tea, when I returned a few minutes later, he had somehow persuaded Steve and Martin to finish off the grinding for him, Steve even refitted them back into the grate.

Lighting a warming fire usually requires coal, the bunker was empty as the insides had recently been repainted.  I fetched a couple of wheel barrow loads round, Jonathan shoveled them up onto the footplate.
Jonathan shoveling coal, Martin holds the wheelbarrow
 Not too much later, and we finally get smoke at the chimney.
Sending smoke signals to the Cotswolds
 Phil is supposed to be Jonathan's firing instructor, so really he should have been watching him start the warming fire.  He turned up at the very end to make sure that everything was as it should be.
Jonathan looks happy now that he's finally got the fire lit, Phil just looks happy.
 Work has continued on Dinmore Manor's tender, the main work was riveting several brackets in place.

Step 1, heat rivet until cherry red
Mark with the flame thrower
Tim takes the rivet and passes it to Ian
Ian inserts the rivet
Mike uses pneumatic press to turn over the end of the rivet
 The pneumatic press was louder than a Motorhead concert, ear defenders were very necessary.

 Some time later, when the noisy tasks had abated, Chris and Tim cracked on with applying grey undercoat onto the tender frames.
Chris (l) and Tim.
 Towards the end of the day, I was summoned to take a picture of the tender frames with brackets riveted in place and the two replacement plates in place, but not yet riveted.  It was even suggested to me that a perch on top of Foremarke Hall's tender might provide a better view.  Whilst I was scrambling up on the tender, everybody disappeared from view as they didn't want to appear in the photo.

Dinmore Manor's tender frames
 The two new plates are the two just beyond the drag box that are not parallel to the frames.  Deliberately not parallel I should add.

Once they thought I had finished, Mark, Mike & Ian returned to admire their work.
Well I couldn't miss an opportunity like that could I.

View inside the frames of riveted bracket and new piece of plate.
 The 2807 group has come up with a fund raising plan.  It came to my attention as they had placed an advert for it on the wall of the gents in the yard at Toddington.  Not everybody is going to see it in there, at least, I'd like to think that not everybody would see it in there.  Hopefully it will get a bit more attention by posting it here.
2807 prize draw
 I should point out, that most of our locomotives have owning groups that would be delighted to sell you shares, as well of course as the GWSR share scheme.  I plan to do a feature in the not too distant future outlining how you would go about obtaining shares if you wish.

You may recollect that the 35006 gang moved the centre con rod about in the shed last week.  It was in a pretty grubby state.  They have spent a lot of time polishing it until it gleamed.  To be quite honest, nobody other than the driver when oiling up underneath will see it anyway, but it does look good now.  If any of our passengers get to see it when 35006 is running, then something will have gone seriously wrong.
35006's centre con-rod.
 I reported last week, that the 35006 gang were hydraulic testing the cylinder drain cocks, well that's what they told me they were, apparently they were the cylinder pressure relief valves.

Clive had a good day, he started off as a pirate, only one leg
Ready to walk hop the plank
 Clive is in charge of the oil store and has arranged for new oil tanks to be installed to replace the old oil bunds which have been found to be very wasteful of oil.
New oil tanks
 The colour coding, green and red is nothing to do with traffic lights.  Green is for motion oil, red for steam oil. At least I presume it's that way round, I should have asked one of them.

During the course of the day, hand pumps have been fitted to allow the oil to be extracted from the tanks
Steve (Not to be Moved), Clive & Ade fitting the pumps
 There are of course now colour coded oil cans on each loco.

New steam oil can on 4270.
Finally, after an afternoon painting the inside of 2807's tender, Clive emerged looking like a panda.  There were no end of suggestions as to how he might have a acquired what appears at first sight to be a black eye.
On the plus side, his missing leg has miraculously healed itself
 Not long before clocking off time, the weather closed in for a while, cold, wet, white stuff descended on us.  It only did so briefly, but there was an impressive rainbow once it had passed by.
Sadly no pot of gold was discovered.
And finally, a bit of a treat.  I am greatly indebted to Len who has managed to unearth the following photos of our line from back in the days of its previous ownership.  Not only that, but he has made contact with the copyright holder and obtained permission for me to use them here.

All photos from here on are courtesy of Roger Carpenter.   Please do not take any of these and repost them elsewhere.  Should you wish to purchase copies, then Roger can be contacted at:

Roger Carpenter
407 Highters Heath Lane
B14 4TR

Toddington downside waiting room 1952
Toddington downside waiting room 1952
Toddington 21/08/60, facing Cheltenham
Toddington, 1952
Toddington, facing Cheltenham, 1952
Toddington,view from road bridge adjacent to station towards Stratford-Upon-Avon, 1952
Churchward 2-6-0, 5332 at Toddington, 22/04/54
Winchcombe 1950, facing Cheltenham
Winchcombe, 21/08/60, Collett, 0-6-0, 3203, Northbound engineer's train


  1. Any news about the gala in May??? Have any of the visitors been confirmed???? When will the theme be announced????

    1. Good timing as I have just got back from the Gala meeting. The first confirmed visitor will be appearing in Steam Railway Magazine at the end of the week apparently. Hopefully the second loco along with the theme will appear on this blog at about this time next week. A third loco is still being sought, an iron or two is in the fire. If we get what we have asked for, rest assured it will be a stunning line up. Personally I can't wait.

  2. Thank you for drawing attention to the 2807 Grand Draw for 2015. I might even be able to see 2807 this year (it was away when I visited for the 2014 Steam Gala).
    The archive images from Mr Carpenter are superb; its always good to remind ourselves what our Railway used to look like in earlier days. The photo of Toddington yard taken in 1952 clearly shows the fruit shed, which is roughly where part of the David Page Loco Shed is now. I understand that the fruit shed (Toddington was well known as a fruit despatching point) didn't last for much longer, the 1955 Railway Strike basically killing off much of this traffic in favour of road haulage. I wonder when the shed was removed? Many thanks for a great blog as ever!

    1. You're welcome for the free advert. I'm afraid that I have no knowledge of when the fruit shed was removed myself however input from any of the readers would be welcome.

  3. First of all sorry if this gets posted twice, I've never commented on here before and the first one I did looked like it didn't post.

    I think the old photos of the station etc are absolutely brilliant. It's changed so much yet there are still bits you can recognise!

    I have come across an old postcard colour photo of the station on eBay from the 'inbetween' time, hard to say when it was taken but it really was quite fascinating; there was no track, it was overgrown and there was even a couple of abandoned looking steam locos sitting on a piece of track just past the station. Couldn't tell what they were though.

    I don't know if it's the ambience of the black and white photo but Churchward 2-6-0 looks very grubby and unloved - is that generally how they all looked during their full time service back then? If so they are all looking much better these days!

    I'm quite new to steam locos but I've been enjoying your blog for quite a while now even if some of it goes over my head. Trying to learn as I go! Keep up the good work!


    1. Hi Donna,

      Thank you. Welcome to the world of steam in general and the GWSR in particular. I hope you get to enjoy a visit to our line sometime soon. I'd welcome more old photos if you or indeed any other readers have them. I would of course also need to be allowed to publish them here by whoever owns the copyright.

      BR was famed for failing to clean locos during the latter days of steam and these days people pay good money to have them 'weathered' for photo charters so that they look as they remember them. I have been known to do that myself, even though BR steam is before my time.

      Best wishes


    2. Thanks for the info Ray.

      I've looked into the postcard on eBay (which I've now bought) and it says it was taken in the summer of 1981. I think it was published by English Life Publications Derby who don't appear to be operational anymore. Of course, someone took the photo but how do you go about finding out? Especially if the publisher is no longer around.


    3. You're right, they appear to have been dissolved in 2000. The publisher wasn't necessarily the copyright holder though, that would have remained with the photographer unless he had sold the copyright elsewhere. Do you have any details on who the photographer was?

      Best wishes


    4. No, unfortunately not, which probably means it can't be posted here which is a shame... but after reading the Chronology on the GWSR site I can tell you it's not too dissimilar from the photo on there of BR lifting tracks in 1979. The chronology has allowed me to put my picture in context (summer 1981) and it coincides with first items of rolling stock arriving for restoration. I thought initially that the photo was showing the railway at quite a low point, however I can see now that it was at a great time and the start of a fantastic future. Fascinating stuff.

      I bought a couple of other items from eBay relating to Toddington station - I don't know if it would be of any interest to you/the blog or if these things differ from pictures in terms of copyright rules but I have a "weight-only" invoice dated March 1952 and an "appendix to goods general account 1103" form from January 1951.

      Personally I find them to be interesting nuggets of history! Would you be interested in putting a copy of these on the blog?


    5. Hi Donna,

      Well assuming that the forms themselves have no copyright markings on them, then if you took photos of them, you automatically have the copyright to the photos, so if you're happy for me to use them here, all would be fine.

      Best wishes