Tuesday, 28 April 2015


It is a fair while since I last inflicted provided you with a profile of a member of the steam loco dept. Mostly because those who have been approached have been far too sensible to agree to it.  Derek Smith however has kindly agreed though and presents an interesting subject as his life on the footplate spans not only around a decade on the GWSR, but also time on British Railways in both its Western & Southern regions as well as South Africa. 

Unless otherwise stated, all photographs were kindly provided for this article by Derek himself.

 Derek was born at an early age and started his working career with steam as a locomotive cleaner at Gloucester Horton Road (85B) on the 8th of May 1958.  There were no fireman vacancies at 85B at the time that he attained the grade of passed cleaner, so he transferred to the number 4 roundhouse at 81A Old Oak Common (OOC) on 15th February 1960. 

In his own words:

After engine cleaning, some of the time of which I served behind the booking on/off office window hatch, checking men in and off for their turns, plus occasionally going out on the shed call bike with messages for crew. (I had been recognised as being able to read and write well so.....), I got passed out as a Passed Cleaner prior to the Spring of '59.

At OOC, being freshly made up to fireman, I was largely in the prep gang and on the 'Ups and Downs'. Prepping was hard work, getting to do around six engines in a shift, but, did the lot, "Kings", "Castles", other W.R. 4-6-0'S, 92'S, one sole "County" 1025,('Radnor), (On that occasion, taking it tender first to Paddington where we were relieved by the train men working the (Bristol?) passenger train. We also prepped 61's, Panniers of all sorts, the occasional Stanier 8F and virtually any other Class of WR loco's there. Ups and downs generally involved preparing or taking to a ready prepped engine, then, to either OOC or West London carriage sidings. Mostly 15XX's, the 9400-9409 'fleet' and other of the class, plus ordinary Panniers. Sometimes we had a 61xx, remembering a pretty clapped out 6121 as a regular. 
6862, Derwent Grange

Sometimes we'd use a freshly prepared train locomotive to take the empty Coaching Stock (ECS) up to the stops at Paddington. Then, once the train had left us, we'd go outside and wait until we backed on to a main line job, have relief, then go and relieve an incoming express. The driver and fireman were generally well on the way to the cabin for their grub and a brew before passengers from the second or third coach back got near the cab! Many's the time we've accepted "Good trip up today" and similar accolades! Once the up and down engine had coupled onto the country end of the stock, it was either trail down, cutting off at the entrance to the relevant carriage sidings, and either standing just outside and waiting for an arrival, then with the Main Line engine, taking the ECS tender first to the sidings. It was on one such occasion that the "King" we'd taken over had gone onto a later arrival to do just this, I gained great pleasure in getting a few shovelfuls down the front of that long box, great! I was 17 at the time (Also had my first ever shave in the BR hostel I stayed in!). 

When you worked the stock to the carriage sidings or sheds, same as if you'd cut off after being trailed down, i.e., taking the engine onto the shed "run" (Entry pit road for the fire droppers to do the fire, ash pan and smoke box, then, (Also a job I was often on), place the engine under the coal stage, move to take water if needed, then into one of the 4 Roundhouses and turn it off onto the track for it's next trip, or for repair/washout or the like. 

The other alternative at Paddington was, follow the stock down, then go Light Engine (LE) to Ranelagh Bridge depot, just near the terminus, to turn, take water and for the coal men there to shovel all the coal forward for say, a return Wolverhampton. When the Kings were on a job, (Euston rebuilding leading to a much more intensive service), if 84A. Wolverhampton Stafford Road, had coaled with hard coal, the pile would be well eaten into and I'm told they frequently got back with very little left! Stafford Road or Tyseley men used to work the jobs both ways on a lot of the turns, just having relief in Paddington, then walking up to the departure end after their 'snap', and boarding their steed for the return! 

The furthest I ever got was the Express Dairy shunt at Wood Lane or, Acton Main Line pilot shunt jobs. I well remember an ex Gloucester driver who'd gone to OOC for his driving job, leaving me to hit 'em up and knock 'em off on my own whilst he was otherwise engaged. Experience gained which, with train lengths then (1960),and today's lack of preserved trucks in vast quantities, couldn't ever be replicated again! This was with an 87XX PT. (The 15XX's didn't include 1501, because she wasn't at OOC). 

Steam heating uses a lot of water and can keep the clock off the mark, well, we had a job where you were doing nothing more than that at OOC Carriage shed/yard, all the different rakes of stock in turn, some with 14 bogies on.  A pannier towards the end of her shift with a dirtying fire, well, blower well on and quite a struggle to keep both the clock well round and water in the glass I'll tell you!

I stayed at OOC until moving to my local home town depot of Cheltenham Malvern Road, a 4 road Sub-shed of 85B. 

Derek on the left on the footplate of Jinty, 47506, at Cheltenham High St. 5/3/62
Saturday 10th December 1960 saw me work my last duty at 81A, Old Oak Common. I was on at 2pm for "Shed, Goods Side", utilised from "2pm Spare" where I helped to move and place right for coal on the relevant 'run' side of the coal stage incline, such engines as 9477, 9758, 90565, 9700, 4644, 9469, 6141 and possibly more? Old Oak's allocation when I left, approximately 163 loco's!  As Sunday was my rest day, I paid a Privilege ticket return fare of 11s 2d (57p) to Swindon to 'do' 82C shed and visit the "Mecca", Swindon locomotive Works and relevant complex. The most notable engine that visit I suppose, was seeing 7, "Owain Glyndwr" the narrow gauge engine off the Vale of Rheidol in for works attention. (I didn't record whether I saw the Anglicised name "Owen Glendower" displayed on the other side tank though!). 

 Monday, 12/12/60, booked on at 9.30am to travel as passenger (A.P.) on the 11.15am off Paddington, right through to my new workplace, alighting at Malvern Road and boldly walking forward, away from the footbridge, to access the shed via the boarded crossing at the East/Toddington end of the station, booking off at 2.50pm. Tuesday, I was marked on the shed roster sheet as, on duty 6am, R.T.F., ("Report To Foreman"). I rode upon the footplate of newly prepared 8107, for the 6.30am stopping passenger service to Kingham, in order to get to St.James' goods yard. This was to relieve a Gloucester fireman on 9471 as the booked Cheltenham fireman 'had done it in' (Hadn't turned up!). I have it recorded that we shunted from about 6.50am until 7.15am when the late running fireman appeared! During this time, I'd just put 2 shovelfuls down the front. I was then instructed to travel over to Gloucester on the 7.35am train, to attend Horton Road shed, staying unused/Spare in the cabin, until catching the 1.20pm train back, booking off in 8 hours at 2pm. Easy first day! 
Black 5, 45263 passes Toddington with a Wolverhampton to Kingswear train, 24/7/65
The next day, much better. On at 6.15am to prepare 5173 to go off shed for 7am. I then worked the 7.35am, having ridden in the train the previous day, stopping at Malvern Rd, Churchdown and Gloucester (Central). The rest of the day with our 2 coach load was, 9.30am to Cheltenham, add a wagon to the formation before working the 25 mile branch, via the 10.50am train, all stations to Kingham. At Stow-on-the-Wold, the wagon was poled off the rear of the train into the Goods siding there, before completing our journey. We later worked the 12.36pm passenger back, arriving back at St.James around 1.40pm before uncoupling and LE (Light Engine) to Cheltenham shed "run" for the fire dropper/coal man/shed man to clean the fire for late turn and coal it up. We left it "screwed down" and booked off in the lobby at 2.10pm. I also recorded such items as, that we had the same coaches all day with around 40psi steam heat, our engine was green, lined out with the new(er) BR crest, facing Gloucester and with yellow side numbers and, in dirty condition. My Driver for this duty was a real old school hard man, W.J.(Bill) Dix. Hadn't seen it before, nor worked with anyone after, but he had an old thick glass beer bottle with a screwed in bottle stopper full of black tea, which he placed above the brake/ejector fitting, and drank from that all shift. He also had hardly any teeth and wasn't backwards in stating he'd never been to a dentist, but had either pincered old teeth out himself, or they'd been self extracted one way or another!! Whilst he was a gnarled old boy, no evidence that he'd actually had any of them knocked out came to my ears! 

15th was on duty at 4.45am and prepare 8491 for 5.30am off shed to work St James' station passenger pilot. Around 11.55am, swopped footplates with 9471 in order that the 84 could get over to Gloucester shed, possibly for boiler washout, something which wasn't undertaken at Cheltenham. Noted that day was SR 31791 of 71A (As Eastleigh's shed code was then), in on the 3 coach ex MSWJR train. Friday saw me on the GWSR track as, having booked on at 5.30am to prepare 3203, we went off shed at 6.15am, waited for a guard then, LE to Cheltenham High Street via reversal at Lansdown Jct., did a bit of running around getting some wagons and a brake up together, retraced our steps and back at Malvern Road, picked up 2 brakes and four open ('Grampus'?) wagons before setting off for Winchcombe, with our "Engineers train". However, there were those who had different plans, and we were stopped at Bishops Cleeve and told to back into the up siding, run round, and then head back to Malvern Rd in order to go up over Dowdeswell viaduct, through the tunnel and to Andoversford instead, having stopped at one point to pick up 3 gangers. Whilst up at Andoversford this date, 4MT Std. 2-6-0 76011, (probably of Eastleigh) was on the MSWJR service. We worked back and forth between Andoversford and the viaduct then, until going back down with eleven wagons and 2 brakes to Malvern Rd sidings, then onto shed, this time, filling up the boiler etc. and leaving it on the "Sand furnace road", as it was to be taken over to 85B for servicing later. I booked off at 4.35pm so made 11hrs 51.5mins for payment, taking into account pre-6am enhanced hours, and the 3hrs 5mins overtime at enhanced time and a quarter rate too. 
Odd interlopers in Gloucestershire were LNER B1's, this one is 61245, Murray of Elibank
Saturday was a Rest Day but on the Sunday, 18th, I voluntarily attended a Mutual Improvement Class (MIC). I seem to recall it was held in a side room in the near to shed's "Kings Arms" pub in Gloucester Road. Noted on shed that morning, 4100, 6137, 8409, 47422 (High St. pilot, sub shedded at ours from Barnwood), 6341 and 2895. Thus ended my first week at my home town depot, being just about 6 minutes walk from my birthplace, near the "Gasworks' Clock" in Tewkesbury Road. The second week, lie-ins, 5.30pm start all week!

I remained here from arrival, 12/12/60 until it was closed around Sep'63 which is when I opted to go to 'the other side', the (Former) Midland/MR roundhouse shed at Gloucester, 85E, (formerly 22B until the WR took it over in 1957), and also 85C for a period. I thoroughly enjoyed just over 6 months there before the merger with my original shed down the road, 85B, from 4/5/64. When it first happened, all the remaining sets of men, engines and work came together, thus for a few months in '64, 85B had an allocation of over 100 steam engines again. Saturday/Sunday 2 and 3/1/66 saw the end of steam at Gloucester and Monday 4/1/66, other than for the delayed former S&DJR Line and depot closures, we were without an allocation of steam, the last steam shed, along with Worcester (85A) in the WR. In brief, it wasn't the end though, as right up until the end of Summer '66, steam from the MR depots continued to slip through the border to us and, especially in the early part of that year, the visitors were frequently requisitioned for duties. Indeed, a supply of coal was still dispatched to us for use from our coal stage to top up the fuel if required. 

The last working Fowler 4P, 3 cylinder compound, 41123 at Gloucester Barnwood
The variety at 85B as far as firing was marvellous as, besides the various WR engines, you had the ex-Barnwood stud of Standard 4 and 5 4-6-0's, the Ivatt and Std 2-6-0 2MT's, their Fowler 4F's/Big goods (Or as Western men unkindly referred to them as, Ruptured 4's or Ruptured ducks), along with all the ex MR steam which worked in and out from Birmingham (Saltley and Tyseley), WR too from the latter, WR and MR engines from Oxley and Banbury, and those from farther afield. Plenty of Std. 9F's from and to South Wales on ironstone and coal trains, mixed in with Churchward/Collett and Stanier 8F 2-8-0's. Black 5's were as plentiful as the "Halls", "Modified Halls","Granges" and a smattering of Castles" and "Jubilees" although by this stage, the Paddington's were largely dieselised and the Black and Std. 5MT's and "Jub's (5X's as MR men referred to them) were rapidly being displaced by Peaks and Cromptons on the Bristol-Derby-Sheffield-Leeds-York jobs. I of course couldn't escape the Second man's chair, but I did try to swop to a steam job if you knew in advance your job was to be diesel worked. 
Derek (2nd left) about to leave Ashchurch on 7808 Cookham Manor for a Tyseley open day
One nice job we had was 23.59 on duty (no, not midnight!), walk to Eastgate, relieve Bristol men on an up parcels job (C Class/3 headcode). At the time, Oxley provided the motive power and we invariably had one of the fast dying "Castle" class, starting to gradually lose a number or name or shedplate here and there. One week I recall we had 5089, "Westminster Abbey", a single chimney one, then 7014 "Caerhays Castle" with a double chimney etc. We worked the turn to Dudley via stops at Cheltenham Lansdown, Worcester Shrub Hill and Stourbridge Junction, fantastic! At Dudley we had a few hours break including a lovely doss near the red hot glowing 'Romesse' stove, before relieving an ex Derby, generally Crompton hauled, parcels back to Gloucester. One morning though, chuffed to hear the unmistakeable hiss and clank of, - a Black 5 instead! 

On the subject of "Castles", I remember preparing 7012,"Barry Castle" at Oxford, to work an ironstone (Loose linked) freight from Yarnton Yard. My mate told me it was withdrawn about 3 weeks later. (It's possible that job was when I was still at Cheltenham?) From Gloucester I've worked steam to places such as Cardiff, Swindon, Bath Green Park, Bristol West Depot, Bordesley Junction via both routes from Bearley, and Wolverhampton Low Level. (once), Water Orton (Birmingham), Rowley Regis (towards Smethwick on the Lye and Cradley Heath route from Stourbridge Junction), to Oxford via both Honeybourne (Yes, on our GWSR route) and the Ashchurch-Evesham branch. We also had a turn to Leamington Spa too, turning right at Hatton Jct. I didn't manage hardly any trips in the Forest of Dean with steam but I did venture on steam along the Stroud, Wallworth and Nailsworth branches from Stonehouse, the Coaley Jct to Cam and Dursley line, these only with freight. I also did a couple of freight with steam (78xxx 2-6-0) turns from Ross on Wye as far as Lydbrook Jct. 

I had one of Barnwood's 14xx's on the temporally introduced passenger service between Berkeley Rd to Severn Bridge station, as the downed bridge over the Severn wouldn't allow the normal service to and from Lydney Town. Until the end of the Summer Service '65, it was nice to get to get the stopping passenger jobs to Birmingham New St via Worcester and Droitwich Spa, and in the other direction, Eastgate to Bristol Temple Meads, generally going into the old roofed terminus platforms, there on the far right! On the subject of 2-8-0's, we had 2854 and 3848 allocated to us, as were a trio of WD's (Austerities/Wobblers/Dub Dees, as you may), these latter mainly for the Woodford Halse jobs. Cardiff Canton and Newport Ebbw Jct sheds often turned one up for jobs, latterly working them to the exchange yard/sidings at Honeybourne West. There we'd have a break and later, swop footplates with Woodford men on a S. Wales bound job, generally with one of their WD's, or a WR one returning home. One thing that was always apparent to me, was the ease they steamed with the ER hard coal, and the comparative 'struggle' you often had with soft Welsh, even good stuff. Depth of fire and the sometimes quite soft exhaust had something to do with it! Western men were well known for thick back end fires but, given my time over again, I would definitely have tried the light and bright/little and often method with a WD and soft coal. 

We also used to get 9f's and the remnants of the WR 4-6-0's and 2-8-0'S on these turns. All were the same, in that you had to be prepared for the fireman from the Woodford job, keeping his own shovel and, if he had one, keeping his handleless brush wrapped up in a wiper. There have been a few occasions where it's been necessary to go back to our incoming loco', and rescue the necessary, especially if the Woodford loco' hadn't got a decent second shovel! 
Derek having a brew in the cab of 9F, 92203, Black Prince on the GWSR
 Another thing I've not touched upon yet is tank engines. I fired a few 14xx Autos, generally in 'non-auto coupled mode', all the Pannier Tank classes including the 84 and 94xx's, the occasional 42/52 and larger 72's, we had 2 or three, over time, 66's (6669, 6690 and 6696), all the 41,51,61 and a couple of 81xx large Prairies, and the 55xx's, as well as the last working 4500 small tank class member 4564. We had a short dalliance with displaced Bristol 82xxx Std's, whilst I only rode home on a few Shrewsbury ones, the 80xxx on ex-Hereford branch jobs. We also had jobs on 22 and 32xx 0-6-0's and the Moguls. (53,63,73 and a renumbered 93 (Ex 9313, now 7335, presently on the SVR awaiting a new ticket). There were also the odd turn on a 54,64 and when en-route from Stourbridge to S. Wales, (after a sojourn stored at Malvern Rd), a 74XX.

Jinty, 47417 at Malvern Rd, 21/4/57
8731 on Malvern Rd,  26/7/56
After an earlier rejected attempt, on 10/10/66, a fellow steam mad fireman and I who had been granted an unusual, for then, inter-regional transfer to go on loan to the SR where we started on the 11th at Eastleigh (70D, formerly 71A). After a fantastic time there, getting as many steam turns as we each could, Sunday 9/7/67 saw me on my last duty there. The following day, 10/7/67, the first full day of the elimination of SR steam, both my colleague and I were going home with free passes, 'No longer required'! I stayed at Horton Road then as a Diesel Secondman until packing it all in for the princely sum of £333-16s, this being £300 lump sum resettlement,and £33-16s outstanding holiday pay, on 2/5/70. 

Derek's mate Keith on 34023 Blackmore Vale on the Weymouth Quay to Waterloo boat train, June 1967
Soon to be scrapped, l-r, 34071, 73117, 73115 & 34077 at Eastleigh, 8/7/67
My mate Keith who had returned to his native Yorkshire almost as soon as he'd returned from Eastleigh, working with his Dad and a brother, painting and decorating, joined me on a flight to South Africa where on 12/5/70, we'd both been taken on as trainee firemen at Bloemfontein, the capital city of the Orange Free State, and "busting" with well over 100 allocated 3' 6" gauge coal fired steam engines, a lot hand fired, but the type of allocation probably meant there were a few more of the mechanically stoked variety. By early November though, for a number of reasons, I'd given in my notice and left the City on board a 4-8-2 hauled "Orange Express", en-route along the main line to Kroonstad etc. By 20/12/70, I'd arrived back in "Blighty" disembarking from the New Zealand registered liner the M.V. Akaroa", in London Docks." 

Everybody has the odd embarrassing incident occur in their lives every now and again, Derek provided the following anecdote of a faux pas during his firing career at Gloucester on a train for Kingham:

It was Saturday 9th of September and notable in that it was the final day of passenger services over the old M.S.W.J.R.  (Midland & South Western Junction Railway) route, known locally as the 'Tiddly Dyke'.  This was as far as trains between Southampton Terminus and Cheltenham Spa (St James) via Andover, Swindon Town, Cirencester & Andoversford were concerned.  I was in my ninth month as a Cheltenham Malvern Rd fireman and on duty this day at 6:15 am for turn 276A.  I was with diver George "Jolly" Alsopp and our engine for the day was 6126 of 85B, Gloucester Horton Rd which was our parent depot.  Following preparation, we went off shed light engine the short distance to St James' station where I coupled up to "4 for 124 tons" in the bay arrival platform. This formed the 7.35am stopper to Gloucester Central, which we duly worked.  

After various moves on arrival, we awaited the arrival of our ex Hereford train atop the Chalford auto-car in the up bay.  7811 Dunley Manor duly arrived and passed us on its way to shed.  We then moved out and trundled half way along the long up platform where I coupled up to our "3 for 94 tons" train.   At 9.30 am, right away back to Cheltenham calling at Churchdown and Cheltenham Malvern Rd stations on the way.  

After arrival at the main line arrival platform at the terminus (St James), I uncoupled before drawing up nearer to the stops to get the road to run round via operation of the bell code push situated at the platform end.  The uncoupling move was an unofficial agreement with the shunters.  This was so as to expedite our change to the other end of the stock, thus enabling us to snatch a brew and have a little longer for our bait (sandwiches or whatever).  In between though, we had to take water from the column on the arrival bay run round road.  It was from here on that things started to go awry!  

I clearly remember my mate squeezing up the buffers on our stock on the main line arrival to assist the lifting on of the coupling, and me winding on the hand brake.  Then I climbed out onto the bunker, lifted off the headlamp from the top bracket, then going atop the engine and tanks to put the lamp on the chimney bracket for our third class B, stopping train of the day.  Things were much busier than usual due to the end of the M.S.W.J.R. services and I recall seeing U class 2-6-0, 31791 arrive in the adjacent platform with its 3 coach train and about 6 or 7 on the footplate.  

Now I can't recall who actually 'officially' who was responsible for coupling us up to our 10.50 am train, all stations to Kingham,  but suddenly, it's time to go, whistles were being blown, the road was set and we hadn't even started creating the brake!   As George created the vacuum, I struggled to unscrew the handbrake off, never that easy unless the brake has been applied a little before.   Frank Walker, our guard, was in his compartment towards the rear of the train waving his green flag so as the brake was released, we tooted an acknowledgement and off we went, leaving as it turned out not just the throngs behind.  

I remember seeing the distant signal off for Malvern Rd West box, just before we plunged under St George's Rd bridge.  I also recall looking up at Malvern Rd East box as we passed with nothing to be seen, put a couple of shovels full round before my mate shut off to run into our first stop, Malvern Rd.  As we ran in they were announcing the "10:53, all stations to Bourton on the Water, Stow on the Wold and Kingham.  Change at Kingham for stations to Oxford and London."  As we drifted under the footbridge that linked the station booking office area and concourse with the platforms, some strange excess of light emanating from the rear open cab/bunker doors caused my mate to go a horrible white with traces of purple and exclaim "F... me, we ain't got no b...... coaches".  

With all the activity back at St James' and the rather hasty departure, we'd overlooked the coupling up.  Inspector Huxley told us to put a tail lamp on and run round to Malvern Rd West dummy (ground signal) in order to return from whence we had come.  This we started to do, only to find that following the points being pulled for us to go from the down line to the up line, the dummy wouldn't come to the off/clear position properly; it just moved slightly and that was it.  After scrambling down and giving the point blades a few frustrated kicks, all seemed alright, so with the bobby leaning out of his sliding window calling us back, we resumed our bunker first run to the scene of the crime. 

As we clattered over the Malvern Rd East junction, what should we see but the down Cornishman waiting at the signals to come off the Honeybourne line to take its rightful place in the platform at Malvern Rd.  Oops!  We, somewhat cowed, resumed our rightful position and were coupled up by George Leighton, one of two passenger shunters on duty that morning.  We have since been told that our guard's face was a picture, after he'd slammed his door, leaned out, waved and whistled and listened to the exhaust of our disappearing loco with no appropriate forward movement of his stock.   

Part of the end of line activities, a pre-beard Derek on the left in the cab
 A few "interviews" took place as a result of the incident, delaying the down Cornishman meant that nobody was going to be able to square away this one.   The driver was responsible for my oversight,  the station master for the guard, the guard for not checking that the setter (emergency brake) worked before we left and the two shunters, though one stated that he was elsewhere, so he escaped.  The station signalman reckoned that he flung the signals back to danger down by St George's Rd bridge when he saw us leave without a tail lamp or a train, but they were off when I looked and there was no red flag being held out of the East box either.  But there we were, the deed was done.  

The rest of the day went alright as it happens, we arrived at Kingham only 3 minutes down.  We ended up the day by working the 12:38pm departure back all stations, Kingham to Cheltenham.  After arrival back home, I recall seeing the 1:50pm, Saturday's only, the last "Tiddly Dyke" service  passenger train, leave, again with 31791, whilst we waited at the dummy off the pilot road to go to the shed.  I know that photographers at Andoversford, Notgrove and Bourton captured our train that day, but we had some coaches coupled up to us by then.
Derek cabbing B1, 61306 at Gloucester earlier this year
Derek on Cheltenham at Cheltenham Race Course
Derek Smith on 5542 on the GWSR
And finally, why have 49007 as the title of this blog post?  That's easy, it was Derek's registered BR employee number, he may occasionally have difficulty remembering where he's left is car keys, but he has never forgotten that.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

New Starters

The water column in the yard at Toddington took a significant step forward on Wednesday as the support for it has been erected.  The next three photos of that job were all kindly provided by Peter Gutteridge.
Erecting the column
Standing back to admire a job well done
 Peter obviously has considerable skills with Photoshop, certainly far better than mine anyway, as he faked the water tank on top of the support in this next photo
How it will look when finished
 News also from one of our erstwhile home fleet, it seems that the Great Central Railway (North) have taken out an advertising campaign on the backs of buses featuring 8274:
Photo courtesy of Craig Simmons
Let the train bus take the strain.

Saturday morning and yours truly was down for the one steam train running on our green timetable.  There had been a flurry of emails earlier on in the week to the effect that two of our new recruits from the recent recruitment fair would be starting today and could we show them the ropes and make them welcome. 

When I arrived, I was more than a little pleased to discover that some kind soul had left a pile of wood for lighting up with by the cab steps of 4270.  I have no idea who it was, but thank you very much who ever you are
Lighting up wood.
Howard was the rostered cleaner for the day.  He ended up showing the two new starters Anthony and Andy the ropes.  As has often been said before, you can't hope to pass out on the 4' 8.5" gauge kettles until you have mastered the 240V variety:
(L-R), Howard, Andy & Anthony with the all important tea.
Somehow I seem to have managed to avoid getting photos of any of them actually cleaning 4270, but I can assure you that they did and we finally set off with her looking perfect.

Cliff was the driver for the day, caught here in the act of getting to one of the more inaccessible lubrication points:
Cliff at work.
 Dinmore Manor has finished her boiler washout and maintenance programme over the course of the day and has been passed as serviceable again.
Dinmore Manor at the start of the day
 Over the course of the week, I stumbled upon a bit of video showing in greater detail what took place in BR days during a boiler washout.

After a while, we were ready to leave shed.
Steamed up and ready to go
Another key thing to acquaint our new starters with was breakfast.
Breakfast time... Jonathan had appeared by now too....
...I'd forgotten that he likes just about everything in his, including the kitchen sink in his.
We took Anthony along with is for the first round trip, leaving Howard to look after Andy back at Toddington.  I asked Anthony if he preferred to be called Anthony or Tony, to which he replied "Dave".  Obviously, why on earth didn't I think of that!

It's not just a case of letting the new recruits sit back and relax when on the footplate, there is a lot to learn and it's never too soon to start.  Before we set off, Howard instructed Dave in the fine art of hooking up a loco onto its stock.  First remove the vacuum pipes from dummies on both loco and stock, then hook on the coupling, screwed up to 4 threads from the end, followed by steam heat if required and finally connect the vacuum pipes together.  Simples!
Howard and Dave coupling 4270 onto the stock
Lineside fence renewal at Didbrook
Cliff & Dave in the office.
 The Permanent Way gang were at work on the line at the skew bridge north of Gotherington.  As we approached, a deer darted across the track in front of us, decided that it didn't like it on that side after all and darted back again.  If you have very good eye sight, you might just be able to see its hind legs in the photo below as it crosses the line for the second time.
Hadn't read the Green Cross Code
Crop from above photo showing just how close we came to cooking venison steaks on the shovel.
And the P Way gang only a little further up the line, hard at work.
 We had set off with a slightly depleted tank of water, so chose to replenish the tanks at Cheltenham, another opportunity for Dave to acquire new skills.  He managed the most important one, which was to keep himself dry.
Dave topping up 4270
 Unusually, the Cheltenham Race Course station platform 2 gang were busy on Saturday.  I'm not entirely sure what was going on here, but from their blog, I suspect that it was something to do with the station name board.
Cheltenham platform 2
 Out and about on the line, I noticed several lineside photographers including this pair:
Lineside photographers
 We didn't stop to check their lineside passes, but something tells me that these two wouldn't have been able to produce them if challenged.  Annual lineside passes are available and if interested, further details on how to obtain one are available on the main GWSR website.  For your money, you not only get an orange hi-viz vest marked with the year for which it is valid, but the list of locations that are out of bounds and a Personal Track Safety (PTS) booklet providing instructions on how to keep yourself safe whilst on the lineside..

This cheery group, were outside the boundary fence, no problems here:
Friendly bunch.
For the second round trip, Andy joined us on the footplate.  There's a bit of a knack to getting vacuum pipes connected and disconnected, especially if they are new & stiff.  The expression most often used is it's like wrestling with two elephant trunks.  Heaving the coupling onto the hook can be a bit challenging too.  He got the hang of it though.
Andy heaving the coupling into place.
 Andy's day job is driving trains for Chiltern Railways, so being with us is a bit of a busman's holiday for him.  Apparently modern air brake pipes are a lot easier to deal with than our good old fashioned vacuum brake pipes. 
Andy at a less strenuous moment
I have mentioned before that the lineside has been neatly trimmed in many locations and is looking much better for it.  I had fondly imagined a large team of people out and about with drive along type grass cutters doing this work.  I was surprised to see just one solitary chap out with a strimmer on Saturday.  He must have been extremely busy if he managed to do all of that by himself.
Solitary strimmer
Another essential activity is that undertaken by the lineside drainage team.  At least there was two of them hard at work.
Lineside drainage team at work
Andy soon got the hang of watering locos, note that without needing telling he has perched himself above the water level so that his feet will stay dry if the tanks overflow and he has settled on the far side of the boiler from the safety valves.  They weren't going to blow on this occasion, but it's a good habit to be in.
Upon arrival at Toddington after the second trip, Ade was keen to show his son Matt the essentials of hooking onto the stock.  Most parents just stop their children's pocket money or ground them for committing misdemeanours, I wonder what Matt can have done to deserve this?
No doubt he'll be ringing Childline now.
For the 3rd trip, Howard joined us.  I'm afraid that I unintentionally handed over the shovel to him with rather less fire on the grate than was ideal, but to his credit he managed to recover it and we got to CRC and back with no major drama.
Howard in Greet tunnel
Hooking off at CRC
 When on the move, the fire is too bright to be able too see what shape the coal is in on the grate and where it is wearing thin and would benefit from the application of more coal.  A popular trick is to use the shovel to direct air being sucked in through the fire door hole onto the grate which gives you a clearer view of what is going on in there.
Howard demonstrates the technique...
...and then fires accordingly.
 Being the green timetable, there was a diesel running as train 2.  The first time I tried to get a photo of 47376 as we crossed it at Winchcombe, the battery in my camera died.  Divine retribution for pointing my camera at something that wasn't steam perhaps?  I always carry a spare charged battery, so next time round I got the shot.
47376 arriving at Winchcombe
 And that was it, once we got back to Toddington, the day was done.  There was an evening fish and chip special going out with our stock, so we didn't even have to park the stock in the north siding, just leave it in platform one and go to dispose.
Howard topping up the water for the last time of the day
Cliff looking pleased after a hard day in the office
 We had quite an audience waiting for us as we got back to the ash pit.
They've found the kettle
 Unusually, the fish and chip special was being hauled by a diesel, 37215.  I believe that you can run some diesel cars on old chip oil, I wonder if that was the plan here.
 Disposal has recently become easier with change to ashing out the smoke box in the morning, on Saturday however, I had about as easy a time of it as you could hope for. First, Howard was keen to rake through the fire for me to lift off any clinker and level it down to being thin and bright.
Howard rakes through the fire.
 And then the two new cleaners, Dave & Andy joined by another new starter, Donna were desperate to help extract the ash from the ash pan.  All I had to do was supervise them.
Andy (l) and Donna (r) scrape out the ash, Dave (far end) damps it down with a hose pipe.
 They were back in the pit as soon as we had moved off emptying the ash into the ash dock.
Emptying the pit.
Full marks to all three of the new starters, all keen as mustard!

The running loco for Saturday had been originally rostered for 2807, but sadly during the week she had experienced another failure of the gasket on the feed to one of her clack valves and had been stopped.  She was sat on shed waiting for some attention on Saturday morning:
2807... wearing her chimney cap at a jaunty angle.
This had come as a bit of a disappointment to Brian (a member of 2807's owning group) who had fetched along his prospective in-laws to see her in steam.  They had come all the way from Australia, so can't easily get back when 2807 is serviceable again, but nonetheless we hope they were pleased with 4270 as a substitute on the train.
Brian, prospective father-in-la and 4270
Brian and his better half.
When arriving at Toddington at the end of each trip, I had noticed that people were working on top of 2807 by her safety valves.  I haven't heard if they were successful or not, but next weekend's War Weekend requires three running steam locos, and with 5542 still on holiday on the West Somerset Railway, we will be needing her.    

Matt kindly posted me several photos of the work that was taking place in the David Page shed whilst I was busy swanning up and down the line on 4270.  Unfortunately there was little by way of description, so all I can say is that it appears that some work was done on the new ash pan for Foremarke Hall, but I can't be much more descriptive than that.
Ash pan being lowered in the shed.
Sean looking happy about something
I think that's Jonathan in the mask
No sign of any work being done at all here.
Finished for the day?
 Matt also provided a few photos of 4270 passing by.  You'll remember that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Dan was complaining that she was blowing off light.  Well that was my experience too, usually around 180 or 190 PSI, but not consistently at the same pressure. I knew that getting my excuses in early would be a good idea.
4270 setting off
No idea what was happening here.... sorry
The previous seven photos all courtesy of Matt Showell.

I noted on Saturday that the boiler of another significant new starter that will be joining our running fleet in the near future had received a top coat of paint and was now looking very smart indeed:
35006 freshly painted
And finally, whilst we are still waiting for our third gala guest loco to be finalised, I have good news regarding the two that are confirmed.  There will be an evening photo charter using both Wells & Wadebridge double headed on the Saturday evening after the gala on the maroon rake.  Details will very shortly be available by any of the following means:

30742 charters website
30742 charters facebook page
30742 charters flickr page

Places are strictly limited, so be quick