Monday, 6 April 2015

Appalling Epaulettes

The 2015 timetable has a few variations from last year's.  The most significant one that I have spotted so far is that for the red timetable, train 2 is steam hauled for the first two round trips, switching to diesel for the last one.  It was for train 2 on the red timetable that I was rostered on Saturday.  The good news for train 2 is that it has a much more civilised start time than train 1, I had the luxury of not turning up until 07:00, the crew of train 1 of course had already been there quite some time by then.

A new procedure for this operating year is that smoke boxes are to be checked at night during disposal, but not emptied until the following morning.  I'm a big fan of this change, the task is so much more pleasant to do when the loco is cold.
Only takes a few minutes when it's cold.
 When I arrived, Paul had already been hard at work for some time cleaning my steed for the day, Dinmore Manor.
Paul at work
 Dan who was firing 4270 as train 1, had already got his fire started and fetched over a round of tea.
Just what the doctor ordered
And to cap it all, there was a barrow load of wood ready for lighting up with sat next to my loco.

A swift check in the cab revealed that I had some water space in the boiler and already 50 PSI on the pressure gauge.  This was turning into a nice easy start to the day.
All was good in here.
 I'm going to get told off for this, but as I haven't got Mike's contact details handy, the best way to let him know that one of Dinmore Manor's lamps possesses just half a red shade is via this blog.
Roxanne, You don't have to put on the red light.
 It's not just the lamps that have issues,  the pair of scissors secured to the desk in the oil store has made a bid for freedom by gnawing off one of its own handles. 
The great escape in progress!
4270 sets off for the start of its day's work
 Once I had my fire going nicely and had cleaned up the backhead etc, I took a quick peek inside the David Page shed to look for anything new to report.
The swimming pool pit on road 7 isn't looking quite so attractive now
 You'll note 2807 in the background on road 8 in the shed.  She should have been out pulling train 1 on Saturday, but she had been failed the night before with a leaking gasket at a feed to the clack valves.  Repairs were carried out on Saturday and she will be back in service as advertised in the next day or two.
35006 has had the exterior of her cab repainted, it looks very smart again now
 Once we had enough steam up, we set off for our stock, the maroon rake sat waiting for us in platform 2.
Ready to go, Paul does a bit of last minute cleaning too
 Train 1 always sets off at 10:00.  It was hard to know which of our locos was hauling it though as it was completely shrouded in its own steam as it departed. 
4270 is in there somewhere.
 Whilst sat on our stock waiting, we were a little surprised to see that the inner home and section signals had both been pulled off whereas the starter signal was still on.  We suspected a broken signal and to be instructed at the signal box to pass it at danger, but it was cleared shortly before we set off.
 Once on the move, we found the Permanent Way gang hard at work replacing rotten sleepers in the Carriage and Wagon sidings.
 The timetable should work so that the train from Cheltenham Race Course (CRC) arrives into platform 2 first, with enough time in hand for the token to be taken into the signal box, returned to the Tyers machine, points and signals set, and then the token retrieved allowing the train from Toddington to sail into platform 1 unimpeded.
Not so this time, we were held up at the bracket
 The hold up, meant that we were late getting into CRC ourselves, so to keep to time, we had to do the whole run round process and for me to build up the fire ready for departure in about 10 minutes rather than the usual 20.  Somehow we did it and we were back at Winchcombe right time, so 4270 could just sail into platform 1 unimpeded.
Back on time.
 Up at Toddington, whilst filling up the tender, I was distracted by a passenger on platform 1 who started asking questions about how much water the tender held (3500 gallons) and how often we needed to fill it (every trip whether it needs it or not).  The inevitable upshot was that I called for Jeff, the driver to shut off the water just a little too late and once again ended up with my own private swimming pool.
You won't get any more in there
 The chap who had distracted me spotted me taking the photo and asked if I was doing that for the purpose of filling in some official report or other. 

I'd noticed that one or two other crews had taken to toasting hot cross buns during the layover between trips at Toddington.  That had seemed like a good dea to me, so I gave it a go.
Cross buns getting hot.
 The couple on the far end of the shovel got pretty much cremated and were dispatched to a fiery grave.  I can't see a glittering new career as a celebrity chef opening up for me somehow.
The rest were quite passable though
After feasting on seasonal fare, it was time to head off back and do it all over again
Jeff in the office.
I noticed this woebegone coach parked outside Carriage & Wagon, I had assumed that it was next in line to enter the works and would soon emerge looking as good as new and get added to one of the rakes.  Perusal of the C&W blog leads me to suspect that it is what they refer to as the "Hospitality Coach". The term "Hospitality Coach" conjures up images of some sort of high class observation/dining saloon to be used for business functions or weddings and the like, but from what I can make out from the blog is in fact more of a garden shed on wheels for temporarily storing bits of other coaches as they are being restored.  If this was amongst our named coaches, think Cinderella.
One day her prince will come!
Once again we spent a while inspecting the bracket signal at Winchcombe
Waiting for train 1
This time round, Paul joined us on the footplate and under instruction fired us down to CRC.
Staged photo, Paul is right handed really.
Paul did a good job, always had plenty of steam, and water, yet didn't blow off and arrived at CRC with enough water space and a cool enough fire to avoid blowing off on the run round.  The safety valves had a very uneventful day altogether.

A key part of sticking to the timetable at CRC and avoiding blowing off, is to be well practiced at hooking off and back on again.  The less time you are down there, the more time you have to prep your fire and keep the boiler under control.  Paul managed this process quickly and safely without any need for intervention.
Paul hooking off at CRC
I had a bit of a chat at CRC with a chap who had recently moved to the area who used to be a guard on the Llangollen Railway.  He couldn't get over there any more, so I hope that I managed to encourage him to make himself known here and be a guard for us.  If you read this and it was you that I was talking to, a good place to start would be by following this link.

The weather forecast hadn't suggested rain, but it had been very grey and overcast so far and often looked like it might rain.  The exposed cab of Dinmore Manor isn't the best place to be in the rain when running tender first.  By this time, well into our last trip, there were even sunny spells.  We were all quite pleased to have managed to stay dry all day.
Jeff, pleased that we had kept dry.
Upon arrival back at Winchcombe, we were told by James the signalman that train 1 had only just left Toddington and that we would have a bit of a wait.  I had noticed the recently externally repainted model railway carriage and took the opportunity to take a closer look.  A small team of people was busy at work on the interior.  I had a chat with one of them, and it transpires that the GWSR is keen for them to staff the carriage on as many operating weekends as possible.  They are a relatively small team, so would probably welcome some more volunteers.  I have to say it sounds like a nice way to spend a day operating a model railway.  I couldn't easily spot a link to volunteer for them on our main website, but if you're interested, contact me via this blog and I will find a way of putting you in touch.
The model railway coach, resplendent in its freshly applied TPO livery
4270 arrived
Back to Toddington for disposal after the two round trips.  The good news was that the class 20 appeared to take the stock off for the third trip, so no need for us to shunt it off into the north siding etc, just take on water and do the disposal.  As mentioned earlier, the smoke box is just to be checked, but not emptied until the morning, the only real chore is emptying the ash pan.
Paul rakes out the ash pan.
Dinmore Manor about to go round to the shed, the class 20 waiting to leave with our stock
Given that it had been mostly a dull day, I had been surprised to discover that there were quite a few lineside photographers about.  This one was down by the south headshunt as we were returning to shed.  Just in case he had been thinking of doing anything rash like taking a photo of the diesel, we parked Dinmore Manor in his way.
Blocking the view
Ok, not really, we got out of his way as quickly as we could.
At this point, the class 20 pulled out.  Phil was on board acting as second man, he was heard to utter the blasphemous statement "It's the way forward" as they went past.  He will be unceremoniously stripped of his firing shovel the next time he shows his face at Toddington.
Class 20 off on trip 3.
It was still early in the day when we got back on shed, and people were still hard at work.  Although most of Foremarke Hall is now at Tyseley, boiler to be reunited with the frames etc, there are still a number of parts here.  Amongst the bits that are still here is the new ash pan, for which damper operating linkages were being created.  There will be four damper doors, operated in pairs from just two levers.
(l-r) Eleanor, John, John & Matt creating one of the damper operating linkages
Trial fit on the new ash pan.
I couldn't see anybody working on 2807 at the time, but I know that the leaking clack valve joint was fixed during the day and I also noticed a new section of plate had been incorporated into the frames of Dinmore Manor's real tender:
Every time I look something new has been added.
4270 arrived back with train 1 at about this time, noticing that she was happily blowing off, I set off up to the platform to take a photo or two.
Safety valves having a busy day
Dan was sat in the cab looking rather glum, and pointed at the pressure gauge, she is blowing off light at 210 PSI making the fireman's job much more difficult.  I am keen to point this out as no doubt I'll be wanting to use this excuse myself next time I am rostered on 4270. There's no harm at all in getting your excuses lined up well in advance.

In one of those happy coincidences, it turned out that an old friend that I hadn't seen for a couple of years was on the platform too along with his dad who he had been taking on a day out on our line.  It's always nice when that sort of thing happens.  I encouraged them both to come back again.

And finally, unless you slept clean through Wednesday, you can't fail to have noticed that it was April Fools Day.  A couple of pranks of note caught out a few of the unwary on our railway.  Our head of training sent out the following via email on the morning of April 1st:

George caused quite a stir when he posted the following picture on a well known social media site with the caption "Guess what.....":
Has the GWSR's  Samson met his Delilah?
He finally confessed that it had all been a hoax and reported that he was still available for bookings as a Cousin It impersonator:
George is in there somewhere!


  1. Glad you mentioned topping up every trip. Your non-techy fellow volunteers wonder why you do this - in the "old" days they didn't fill up every 20 miles?! How many gallons do you use on a round trip? The good explanation is..........

    1. Small tank engines like 5542 would struggle to cover 2 full round trips before needing a refill, it would certainly be taking an unnecessary risk to try it. The consequences of running out of water are far too serious (at least dropping the fire out on the line, and if not quick enough exposing the firebox crown sheet and distorting it) to be worth risking it.