Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Frying Tonight

A couple of our home fleet locos having been off on their holidays, 4270 went first to the Severn Valley Railway for their gala, followed by the West Somerset Railway for theirs.  5542 has also been to the West Somerset too.  Our Operations Manager visited both railways and provided a couple of photos of 4270 from the WSR.
4270 at Bishops Lydeard, photo courtesy of Neil Carr
4270 shunting at Washford, photo courtesy of Neil Carr
The Wednesday gang spent a while cleaning out the tubes of Dinmore Manor with a jet vac.
Now where does this bit go?
Chris (l) and John doing the "Shake 'n' Vac", photo courtesy of Ade Showell
I was down to fire the volunteer fish & chip special on Saturday evening.  An evening turn precludes an early start otherwise you'll go over your working hours.  Nothing for it, but to have a bit of a lie in.  It's a tough job, but somebody has got to do it.

Upon eventually arriving at Toddington, I found to my delight that there was a large number of old motorbikes parked up in the car park, including a pair of Vincent Black Shadows.  If anybody is ever stuck for ideas for a birthday/Christmas present for me, then one of these will do very nicely indeed.  Sit down or stand well clear of fragile objects before inquiring about the price.
You'll find more than beautiful old steam locos at Toddington.
Speaking of old and beautiful, 2807 was down as the service loco for the day, she was pulling out with the second round trip of the day.
2807 heads off for Cheltenham Race Course
I had been forewarned by my spy in the 35006 gang that the tender had received her final top coat of paint.
35006's tender looking resplendent
The BR emblem has yet to be applied, I suspect that as 35006 didn't lose her air smoothed casing until quite late in her BR ownership, that she will be fitted out with the later crest.

From the sides, you would be hard pressed to know that she was actually 35006, the numbers (transfers, which had been getting a bit tatty) have been removed in anticipation of new ones being painted on.
Anonymous Merchant Navy.
She still had her smoke box number in place.  In the foreground of this view is the sump from her tender, recently back from electro-plating.
Foremarke Hall may be away at Tyseley at the moment, but sundry small items are still on site and being spruced up ready for her return.
Tim paints a bit of 7903's cab trimming
Sean prepares a cylinder end cover for painting
Steve paints the firebar supports with heat resistant paint
Meanwhile, the contractors have been hard at work installing the swimming pool pit on road 7 in the David Page shed.
Soon be ready for swimming in.
Over on Dinmore Manor's real tender, most of the new metal plates/brackets have been manufactured, it's now a case of drilling holes and riveting them in place.
Mark Drills, Ian watches on
Judging by the noise emanating from the shed later on, I suspect that they moved onto doing some riveting as well.
A bit later on, Kevin was grinding other parts of the tender
The top half of Dinmore Manor was already sparkling by the time that I turned up, and a small team of people were busying themselves cleaning the bottom end
Dinmore Manor was looking perfect by the time that they had finished.

Time flew by, and soon 2807 returned for disposal prior to the evening fish and chip train.  evening crews get the luxury of having somebody else empty the ash pan etc for them.
2807 on the ash pit
I had viewed this turn as being something of a poisoned chalice. It was my first firing turn since Boxing day, and being a volunteer special, I was expecting that most of the steam loco dept would have been on board, ears straining for any hint of a sound from the safety valves, or worse still the train stopping in the middle of nowhere for a blow-up.  Normally, you move heaven and earth to avoid blowing off as you pull out of Toddington for fear of a round of applause from the mess coach or at Winchcombe whilst crossing another train,  aside from that you're fairly safe.  On this occasion of course, there would be no hiding from them.  In the event, I needn't have been so concerned, only Mark & Sean had booked tickets to ride on the train, the others being too antisocial having worked so hard during the day were too tired and had declined the railway's generous offer of free fish & chips.

The toughest job of the evening was tracking down the "Cheltenham Fryer" head board, which had been cunningly hidden away.
The Cheltenham Fryer, ready to go
The day crew had emptied the ash pan, cleaned the grate of clinker, coaled and watered the loco etc, all I had to do was keep the fire from going out at one extreme, and blowing off at the other and all would be ok.  After only a few false starts I worked out which way round to hold the shovel and all was good.
The day crew had been a little over enthusiastic with the coaling.
The coal rake was nowhere to be seen, either there wasn't one on board, or it was buried under all that coal.

Another concern had been the weather.  2807 has a very open and exposed cab when running tender first and it had rained quite hard earlier on in the day.  Sean had reportedly been seen doing a rain dance in the David Page shed soon before the evening special, but obviously not well enough as mercifully it stayed dry throughout.  Apparently it wasn't so much a ten from Len as a one from Craig Revel Horwood.  Never fear, I don't watch Strictly Come Dancing, I had to make inquiries amongst my friends for a suitable dance related quote.

Regardless of my concerns about boiler control, it all seemed to go pretty much to plan.  The highlight of course was a free fish and chip supper on the platform at CRC. 
Neil tucks into his fish and chips.
Apparently it was too cold out on the platform for any of the other volunteers to join us.  Probably something to do with me having cranked up the steam heating to keep 2807 from blowing off, so they all decided to stay in the nice warm carriages.

There was only one mistake made during the whole round trip, but as it was dark, nobody will have noticed that for the return journey we had the headboard on upside down.  Oops!

And finally, Neil mentioned that he happened to have a photo that he took of one of our gala visitors, 34092, City of Wells.  He took it from the A418 bridge near Haddenham on a down Shakespeare Express sometime in the mid-late 1980's.
Photo courtesy of Neil Carr
With action like this on offer, the "Speed to the West" gala is going to be a cracker.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Recruitment Fair

Firstly, an apology for an omission from the blog from last Tuesday regarding the photo charter.  I made a note to mention it, but by the time the wee small hours of Tuesday morning were threatening to become fairly large hours and with the prospect of an early start for work, I'm afraid that it got overlooked.  What I failed to say and should have done was that large swathes of the lineside had been cleared of vegetation by the lineside clearance team.  Much praise was heaped upon the results of their labours by the photographers on the charter who appreciated the unobstructed views of the train. 

Along with a number of others from the Steam Locomotive Dept, I helped out with manning our stand in the David Page shed for the recruitment fair on Sunday.  In fact I was wearing two hats, as along with Len, I was also manning the Dinmore Manor Locomotive LTD (DMLL) stand too. Conveniently the two stands were right next to each other which made my life considerably easier.  The Saturday had gone extremely well, with 200 visitors, 30 of whom had expressed an interest in joining the steam loco dept. The Sunday was a little quieter, but nonetheless well attended.

 Apparently we needed some sort of statement to say that we were here.  Statements don't come much bigger than 35006 which was being shunted into the car park as I arrived to proclaim that this was the home of the Steam Loco Dept.
35006 finds her way into the car park
Ed is the member of the steam loco dept's manglement management team responsible for new members and consequently the person stitched up with organising us.
Ed in the cab of 35006
I had a moment for a look around before the potential new recruits descended on us.  Round the back of the David Page shed, Dinmore Manor was in steam and ready for a day's work.
All steamed up
I ventured into the mess coach for a much needed cup of tea and found that Andy has left a collection of "Speed to the West" gala flyers in the mess coach for people to take away and give to potential visitors:
As usual, an excellent flyer design from Andy
We only had one guest loco confirmed at the time these had to go to the printers, as mentioned in the last blog post, we now have Bulleid light (this is a new usage of the word light with which I am not familiar) pacifics, 34007, Wadebridge and 34092, Wells.  At least one and possibly two more guest locos are yet to be announced.

The skips in the yard have recently been emptied.  I was a little concerned to discover that the metal recycling skip had a large number of beer cans in it.  Not some wild party in the Steam Loco Dept to which I hadn't been invited, but the empties from the race trains.  Just in case anybody takes the party reference seriously, consumption of alcohol on site by working volunteers is of course strictly forbidden.
I expect there were a few sore heads the morning after
Once inside the David Page shed, Ed had set up a stand featuring items commonly found on the footplate.  The red flags are for protecting the train should it break down in section.  We don't have a green flag on the footplate, the guard has that, he (or indeed she) gets to say when we can go.
The display stand
As part of the display, 2807 had been shunted into the shed and steps placed by the cab to allow prospective volunteers to visit the cab.  From up there, you get quite a good view of the progress that the contractors have made.  We tell every body that it's an inspection pit, but really it will be an indoor heated swimming pool. It seems to be coming along nicely. 
Swimming pool Inspection pit.
Somebody had even put a light in the firebox of 2807 so that people could see inside
2807's firebox
As mentioned earlier, I was wearing two hats, representing DMLL too.  This was their stand parked in front of Dinmore Manor's tender.  It may not look like a great deal, but remember Dinmore Manor herself was in steam and effectively acting as an ambassador for the group by hauling the service trains up and down the line.
DMLL stand
I overheard a couple of members of the steam loco dept who shall have to remain anonymous peruse this display alongside the Dinmore Manor stand for quite a while trying to decide where this photo of 2874 had been taken.  Suggestions of Shrewsbury and various locations in the London area were made. After listening to them debate the issue for a while, I mentioned that I strongly suspected that it was at Tyseley.
The Cotswold Diesel Railcar Group also had a stand in the David Page shed.  In this case, George was wearing two hats, representing them and the Steam Loco Dept. 
George too wearing two hats
At one point Ian, the GWSR's press officer appeared with his camera and made poor Ed pose in front of the stand
Ed missed a trick by not demanding modeling fees
I imagine that Ian's photos will feature on the news section of the GWSR website in due course.

So what did we have to do?  Well it basically boiled down to meeting people as they wandered in through the door, engaging them in conversation and trying to answer any questions that they might have relating to the operation of the Steam Loco Dept. Hopefully we wouldn't scare them off too much. Who knows, perhaps we might impart enough information to allow them to decide if volunteering with us was the sort of thing that they would like to do.  Needless to say, many of the people that passed through were interested in finding out more, but already had a desire to volunteer in other departments, some had no idea which department would interest them most and others just wanted to look around.  I had intended to bring to you a list of the most commonly asked questions along with their answers, but very few people asked the same thing.  The only one that sticks in my mind regarded the ownership of the locomotives which 2 or 3 people asked about.  The answer is that the GWSR hires in all it's locos from their owning groups, paying a steaming fee each time one is used, which will then typically go towards the next heavy overhaul of the loco.  All of our currently operational locos are owned by different groups, or in the case of 4270, by one individual person.  

Quite a few were interested in the loco restoration and maintenance aspect of our work, but on balance I suspect more were interested in progressing onto the footplate.  Most of the people that I spoke to already understood the career progression from cleaner to fireman to driver.  Having joined the department, a demonstration of both commitment and aptitude is required if you want to progress to the footplate, turning up at least a couple of times a month would be required.  There is no such stipulation for loco restoration though again some degree of commitment would be required before training in aspects of engineering could take place. People already possessing engineering skills or people with none at would all be very welcome.

I spent a brief while manning the cab of 2807 first thing in the morning, and predictably most of the questions asked there centred around the controls and what they did.  If you're interested, the handy online footplate guide is just the thing for you.
Potential recruits and volunteers
Meanwhile, out in the car park, the owning group of 35006 had come up with a cunning plan to get their pride and joy running.  A quick phone call to one of the motoring organisations got one of their break down vans on the scene.  Sadly the man with the van was stumped, he had no idea where to attach the jump leads.
This won't be an easy roadside rescue
Thinking that two heads were better than one, he summoned a colleague, but they still had no joy.
Even with two vans at their disposal, they decided that they couldn't tow this one home.
 At that moment, Dinmore Manor chose to head out of Toddington Station as if to spur 35006 on into life.
Dinmore Manor back off to Cheltenham Race Course
The recruitment fair was of course for all the departments of the GWSR, not just ours.  There was a gazebo in front of the admin office welcoming the potential new recruits and as well as the three stands in the David Page shed, there were more in the diesel shed and yet more again at Winchcombe and I think Cheltenham too.
The GWSR's new gazebo
I didn't venture down the line to find out what was happening elsewhere, but I did take a look in the diesel shed.

The emergency rescue team had a stand.  Judging by reports that I have heard about locos blowing off this season, perhaps we need to add one of this kind of fireman to our regular crews to help keep the fire under control:
The other kind of fireman
I'd probably best not say too much, I'll get my first shot at firing this season on Saturday, people in glass houses and all that!

The Diesel Group had a stand and of course a number of diesels to display in their shed.
Diesel Group stand
The Friends of Toddington had a stand too, Frances was delighted with the number of people who had expressed an interest in helping keep the station looking beautiful.
The Friends of Toddington stand
The Broadway Area Group also had a stand.  Hopefully in the not too distant future, when we hold a recruitment fair there will be a Friends of Broadway Station stand at Broadway station to meet passengers off of the trains.
Broadway Area Group stand
At the end of course it was time to put everything away, including 35006.  I noticed as she was being shunted round that a substantial collection of components of the tender brake gear were sat around, hopefully in anticipation of being installed soon.
Brake components set out ready
35006 being shunted back into the shed
7820, Dinmore Manor returning for disposal
And finally, if you missed out on the recruitment fair and are still interested in volunteering with us, then you're not too late, please take a look at the main website volunteering page and go from there.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Speed to the West

Details of the impending "Cotswold Festival of Steam" gala on May 23rd - 25th are beginning to gel together.  The title of the gala is "Speed to the West" and the theme will be holiday trains.   Holiday trains would once have been encountered in the summer season heading to a wide variety of seaside destinations in the West of the country.  Hopefully most, if not all trains during the gala will be sent off with appropriate headboards.

We intend to have seven locos in steam, four from the home fleet and three visitors.  The home fleet will consist of:

Churchward 2-8-0, 2807:
2807 during the 2014 Christmas Cracker gala.
Churchward 2-8-0T, 4270:
4270 on a demonstration freight train during last year's Back to Black gala.
Collett, 2-6-2T, 5542
5542 at Gotherington during last years Back to Black gala.
Collett, 4-6-0, 7820, Dinmore Manor.  
Dinmore Manor on Chicken Curve during the 2014 Christmas Cracker
 Manor class locomotives are of course closely associated with the Cambrian Coast Express trains.  28XX and 42XX locos being designed for freight use, rarely propelled passenger trains, but when they did it was often at the head of holiday specials. We have reports from one time BR men of 42XXs passing through Cardiff at the head of holiday trains.  5542 being a long time Taunton locomotive would frequently have found herself taking holidaymakers up the branch from Taunton to the resorts of Watchett, Blue Anchor and Minehead.

That brings us onto the guest locomotives.  The first to be confirmed was unrebuilt West Country class, Bulleid Pacific, 34092, City of Wells courtesy of the 34092 Partnership which is based on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.  As far as our theme is concerned, 34092 fits in perfectly with the Atlantic Coast Express trains from Waterloo to the seaside resorts of the north Devon and north Cornwall coasts.

As 34092 has only very recently returned to service after a lengthy rebuild, I'm sorry to have to report that I have no operating photos of her in my own archives however I am able to bring you these.

The final BR logo was known unofficially as "The Arrows of Indecision", but there is absolutely nothing indecisive about this one
Photo courtesy of John Sagar
 Oops, spoke to soon, she is currently running as "Wells", her original name, not "City of Wells" to which she was renamed in 1950.
Photo courtesy of John Sagar
 Back in steam and looking absolutely gorgeous:
Photo courtesy of John Sager
That brings us on to our second gala guest loco. We are pleased to be able to present 34007, Wadebridge a second unrebuilt West Country.  Wadebridge possesses all the same credentials for our gala theme as Wells of course.  This is a loco close to my heart as I have taken many holidays in north Cornwall over the years and of course spending much time visiting the Bodmin & Wenford Railway where she was restored from Barry scrapyard condition. The Bodmin & Wenford Railway is just a few miles from the town of Wadebridge itself, which in turn is just a few miles from Padstow, the terminus of the Atlantic Coast Express. She comes to us thanks to the Mid-Hants Railway and Wadebridge (34007) Locomotive LTD.
34007, Wadebridge hauling a demonstration freight train on the Mid-Hants Railway
34007, Wadebridge departing Boscarne Junction on the Bodmin & Wenford Railway
34007, wadebridge at Charlie's Gate on the Bodmin & Wenford Railway.
There is a third tender engine under negotiation to complete the line up. It is currently planned to have all three visiting locomotives facing north for our gala which opens up interesting double heading opportunities with both West Countries.

So there you are, already a dazzling line up of locomotive power and there is still the one more loco in the pipeline that will hopefully be able to be disclosed in the near future.  Keep the dates free in your diary, it's going to be a fabulous event.  Advance tickets are available for booking online.  As was the case for the last two years, brake van rides and footplate rides on selected home fleet locos will be available too.  Details of how to order footplate rides online have not yet been made available on the main GWSR website, I will alert you when they have.

As always, all the usual caveats apply, steam locos are old, may fail etc.  We can't guarantee that any locomotive will not fail or otherwise be unavailable during the gala.