Thursday, 28 May 2015

Speed to the West Day 3

For day three of the Speed to the West gala, I had been rostered for an afternoon turn on Wells.  Now normally that would have been an exciting prospect however for a couple of reasons I wanted to swap the turn.  First, for the weekend following the gala, I have been rostered for Wells on both the first round trip on the Saturday and then for all day on the Sunday.  Three trips out on the same visiting loco seemed to be plain greedy.  Secondly, being a humble wage slave, the day job expected me to be in the close vicinity of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, bright eyed and bushy tailed the morning after the gala.  If I did an afternoon turn on Wells, by the time I had showered and changed, it would be too late to drive up north and I'd have to set off a stupid O'Clock on the Tuesday morning instead.  If I could swap for a morning shift though, I could get cleaned up and still be able to drive up there at a sensible time.  Dan was down for a morning shift on Wadebridge for the Monday of the gala and then again a shift on Wadebridge on the following Saturday.  He was keen for a swap as he would otherwise have missed out on Wells.  The deal was struck and I signed on bright tailed and bushy eyed on the Monday morning to fire Wadebridge.

My driver for the turn was Mark:

Mark oiling one of the axles of Wadebridge
The details of times off shed etc weren't at the signing on point when I arrived and Wadebridge had no pressure on the clock either.  I wasn't going to be the cause of fouling up the gala's timetable by being late on and off the pits etc, so I got cracking with getting the fire going.  In truth, I got cracking just a bit too well.  On a certain social media site, I have yet to be allowed to forget this fact.
John C came by asking for my credit card details to charge the coal and water to.  I am advised by Martin, the owner's rep for the morning, that the safety valves lifted three times before we were off shed.  I didn't count them myself, but it seemed like more to me.

As usual the SLD maintained it's reputation for boiling plenty of small kettles as well as the rather larger ones.
Sean (l) and Andy front runners in the national beverage drinking championship.
Apparently, Mikhail Gorbachev has now joined the SLD, well that or Ian has had a bit of a contretemps whilst oiling one of the locos.
Ian Gorbachev?
A month or two ago, Steve (head of training) had mentioned whilst looking pointedly in my direction that we have qualified firemen who have never fired a loco with a wide firebox.  A wide firebox wasn't the only difference that the Bulleids had to our now entirely GWR operational home fleet.  For a start, the lamps were rather different.  They seemed straight forward enough once I had prised the lids open.  I quite liked the little red filter that could be flipped into place when required.
Southern style lamps
Many of the cab controls were laid out rather differently too.
Speedo, vacuum and cylinder pressure gauges
The water and steam feeds for the injectors
Steam reverser
Large and small ejector plus brake and regulator
Various manifolds, including steam heat
For reasons that eluded me, Wadebridge had an LNER cylinder pressure gauge fitted.
Just a wild stab in the dark, but I'm guessing that it's not an original fitting
Once on the road, it soon became apparent that the view ahead was severely restricted by the air smoother case reaching a log way ahead.  I would need to pay close attention to signals and crossings that Mark on the other side of the cab would not be able to see.
Restricted visibility
Once again, I was as keen as possible to get some cleaners out on the footplate, on the two round trips, Steve, Rob, Chris and Paul took it in turns to join us.
(l-r), Steve, Martin (owner's rep) and Mark.
I had received plenty of advice from no end of people regarding the firing of wide firebox locos.  The common themes were "Keep the back corners filled", "Keep coal away from the thermic syphons unless you need to get the pressure up quick" and "Wear long sleeved gloves".  Martin confirmed that all of this was good advice, so as best I could I heeded all of these instructions.  Welding gauntlets had already been obtained in anticipation.  Once we were off shed, the pressure gauge stayed where I wanted it and there was no more blowing off.  A fair achievement for a first attempt considering that Wadebridge isn't fitted with any dampers, the means of regulating the pressure is down simply to the shovel in your hand and the injectors.  Well ok,the generator too, but as I discovered whilst on shed, it doesn't soak up as much surplus steam as you might like.  The blower tends to just get set on far enough to keep the fire in the firebox then mostly left alone.

The weather on Saturday had been excellent and visitor numbers were correspondingly high.  The Sunday had been rather overcast and visitor numbers were accordingly lower and few lineside photographers were out and about.  The Monday was somewhere in between the two weather wise, and lineside photographers festooned the railway once more.
I'm amazed that Pete had room to exchange tokens at Gotherington
Crossing Dinmore Manor at Gotherington
We had a short wait at Winchcombe for the train that we were to cross with, I took the opportunity to grab a photo of Wadebridge alongside 35006.
34007 and 35006 at Winchcombe
Mark, happy with his steed for the day
Wells arrives, all three Bulleids in one shot
At Toddington, something else (5542?) attached itself on the back and we pulled it down to Laverton.  Once at Laverton, it pulled us back to Toddington, where we took water and it headed off with our carriages.
Being pulled back to Toddington.
We then made ourselves into a photo opportunity for a while
Wells (l) passing Wadebridge at Toddington.
For the end of our turn, we attached onto the rear of the train hauled by Wells, got dragged down to Laverton and then Wells ran round and dragged us down to CRC where Mark and I got off of the footplate and handed Wadebridge over to our relief crew.
Wells running round at Laverton, Dan leaning out of the cab
Dan was by this time on the footplate of Wells in what until we had swapped would have been my turn.
The first time through Greet tunnel, I had left the firebox doors closed for the simple reason that in a strange cab, I couldn't locate the handle in the dark without fear of burning myself.  The generator had been switched on, so it wasn't as if I couldn't see the gauges anyway.  On the last time round, I had my hand on the handle as we went into the tunnel just to make sure.
Paul by the light of the firebox
As mentioned in a previous post, one of my plans for the gala had been to get some sort of a photo line up of the three Bulleids together.  Thus far I had been largely thwarted.  The return journey (I was about to say on the cushions, but it was standing room only) presented me at last with my best chance.  The platform was of course far too crowded with people to allow for a clear shot, but I had a cunning plan.  I should say at this point, that ascending our signal posts to take photos is strictly forbidden for our customers.  Don't try this at home folks, and certainly don't try it on the GWSR.
The trio together at last
 As my camera is capable of taking video, I thought that I'd give it a whirl, I even opened up a Youtube account to stash it in.  Other odd bits of video from around the GWSR may just find their way in there over time.

My plan had been to grab the next service back to Toddington, which turned out to be the light engine move of our thunderbird engine, 4270. Thanks to Neil and Phil for giving Mark and myself a lift back.  It turns out that from their vantage point in the yard, Neil had seen me up the signal post:

Neil:  "Who's that idiot up the signal post?"

Phil:  "Probably Ray".

It was a fair cop.
Neil (l) and Mark in 4270.
Well, that was it, the Cotswold Festival of Steam done and dusted for another year.  Ok, so I know that there is a lot of clearing up to be done, I wish I was able to be there to help with it.  

On behalf of the organising committee, Paul, Ben, Andy, Ian, James and myself, I would like to say thank you very much to everybody who contributed their time to putting on the gala. I know that there are many people in all departments of the GWSR who pulled out all the stops to make the gala the great success that it has been.  Thank you too, to the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, the Mid Hants Railway and West Somerset Railway for agreeing to loan us their locos along with their owners, the 34092 Partnership, Wadebridge (34007) Locomotive LTD and Jeremy Hosking.  Special thanks to Allelys without whom we would have been one loco short of a gala.   Finally, thank you to everybody who visited us over the gala weekend, I hope that you all enjoyed it as much as I did.

Speed to the West Day 2

Day two of the Speed to the West gala dawned bright and early.  I didn't though, being booked down for an afternoon turn on 6960, Raveningham Hall, I decided that a bit of a lie in was called for.  By the time that I ventured into the yard, loco preparation for the day ahead was well advanced.

Andy was out on Wadebridge.  For some reason, Phil decided that he would need a bigger shovel so he fetched him a dropping shovel. I'm not entirely sure now of his reasoning, but I suspect it was related to the alleged voracious appetite for coal of the Bulleids.  Alternatively, it might have been a suggestion that Andy had too much fire in there and needed to remove some.
Phil presents Andy with a dropping shovel.
I spotted George leaning nonchalantly against a Not to be Moved board and thought it would make a nice photo.  George has a suspicious mind and naturally assumed that I was up to something, but he couldn't work out what it was.  No trick, I just thought it would have made a nice photo

George, bemused and suspicious
To be fair to George, he was right to be suspicious.  I do have a reputation for taking photos of people in embarrassing situations such as this one where he has managed to trap his tie in the coffee jar in the mess coach on Saturday:
Just one of the reasons why I never drink coffee
Jamie being of a more trusting nature was more than happy lean against the Not to be Moved board and have his photo taken.
You see, no tricks at all.
Over on Wells, Neil and Phil were happily getting on with preparing their loco.
Neil (l) & Phil
John was in the process if oiling up Raveningham Hall, the loco that I would be taking over later on in the day.
John H oiling the slide bars
Brothers Rob and Steve were doing an excellent job of getting 6960's tender sparkling clean.
(l-r) Steve and Rob H
Meanwhile on the footplate, John C and Chris, the rostered crew for the morning were busying themselves getting ready for departure.  I'm not as up to speed with the names of all the recent intake of volunteers as I should be, in fact how somebody as dreadful as me at remembering names came to be asked to write this blog is a mystery to me.  Anyway, I think that is James on the running plate, my apologies if I got it wrong.
(l-r) John, Chris & James?
Aaron cracked on with cleaning some Bulleid wheels:
Aaron at work.
Steve, our newest fireman got his first turned since passing out on 4270. 
Steve F looking at home in the cab of 4270
The fact that Steve passed out last week also means that I am no longer the most recently qualified fireman on the GWSR.
Steve J had been busy cleaning 4270
Sean making himself useful, cleaning off 4270's running plate
Ben was oiling up 2807
Where on earth did he get that blue oil can from?
Eleanor was busy cleaning 2807's wheels...
...whilst Tom gave the cylinder covers some attention
Meanwhile on the other side, Steve was oiling up 2807 too.
Steve O at work
Graham and Tina were at work on the planet's favourite prairie, 5542
Graham and Tina
Chris was obviously happy with his fire and was busy shoveling coal forward in 2807's tender.
All of a sudden an extremely loud wooshing sound erupted as Wadebridge blew off.  Andy took a bow for the audience.  Now we know what the dropping shovel mentioned earlier was for.
Andy, pretending that it was nothing to do with him
Events conspired against a line up of all the visiting locos and all of the crews, so we settled for a view of everybody who was around at the time, lined up in front of Wadebridge just before she went off shed.
Lots of people, mostly called Steve... or Chris... or John.
Once some of the locos were off shed, I swapped hats yet again and manned the Dinmore Manor stand in the marquee for the morning.  I say that, except for the times when it was raining, I spent most of it out of doors by 2874 engaging people in conversation about her.  A subject close to my heart.  I'm not sure that I persuaded anybody to join DMLL, but a few made financial contributions.

At midday, I metaphorically swapped hats once more and hopped on board the freight train for a lift down to Cheltenham, where Steve B & I were booked to relieve the crew of 6960, Raveningham Hall.

Unhooking 6960 from the freight train proved to be something of a challenge, it finally took the combined efforts of Steve and two others to separate the vacuum hoses.  It's hard to tell from this angle who the other two are, that might be Chris on the left, I have no idea who it is on the right. Steve is the one without a hat.
How many footplate men does it take to.....
Having organised a roster of cleaners for the whole event, who had all been putting in a huge amount of work over the gala period, I was keen to get as many of them as possible out on the footplates in their down time.  The only one that I spotted on Sunday before I left  was Eleanor, so she got the pleasure of joining Steve and myself on 6960 for the afternoon.  I say pleasure, there is no such thing as a free lunch,  I soon had her helping out by pulling coal forward in the tender. 
Eleanor shoveling coal forward
I'm not sure why, but on Sunday at least there was no owner's representative on board Raveningham Hall.  Not a problem as she is of course identical to Foremarke Hall, which has not been out of traffic for so long that either Steve or myself had forgotten what to do.

Having taken over 6960, our duty started off by waiting around for a bit in platform 1 at Cheltenham Race Course (CRC) station, followed by moving out of the way down towards Hunting Butts tunnel to allow the double headed spam cans to come into platform 1 and run around.  Never having been down there before, I took the opportunity to take a peek at the wagons lurking down there.  The track bed gets a bit boggy in places.
A bit overgrown.
Eventually, our stock arrived and we ran round it and hooked onto the front.   At last, we were off on our way.
Heading into Greet tunnel.
We had a short wait to cross another train at Winchcombe, I took the opportunity to grab a photo of 35006 in the bay platform.  Bearing in mind that the tender of 35006 has the wheels from the class 40 that was involved in the Great Train Robbery, it was quite apt that she was at the head of a Traveling Post Office carriage, albeit one that contained model railways rather than used bank notes.
35006 at Winchcombe.
We had seven mk1 carriages in tow, and for the return leg of the second round trip, we were pulling along 2807 as well. 2807 was probably heavy enough to count as another 3 or 4 carriages, I built up the fire accordingly, great fun.
Dragging 2807 across Chicken Curve
Being a fairly recent recruit to the SLD, Eleanor has had little experience of footplate work so far.  At the end of our shift I considered it high time that she was instructed in the art of uncoupling a loco from its stock.
As I said earlier, there is no such thing as a free lunch. 
Having gone to the trouble of rostering not one, but two cleaners to assist crews with ashing out their locos at the end of the day, I was a little surprised to discover that Steve had disappeared underneath to do it.  I don't doubt that the ash pit crew (Jonathan and Chris on Sunday) were pleasantly surprised.
Steve ashing out 6960, Raveningham Hall
Ian replenishes 6960's tender with coal
Jonathan (l) and Chris did at least get to empty the pit afterwards
As up until last week, I was the most recently qualified fireman on the GWSR, I wouldn't normally have expected to get a trip out on one of the visiting locos, but I'm remarkably glad that I did.  I have a bit of a connection with 6960 as in a previous existence, I volunteered briefly on the WSR in the workshops at Williton during the time that she was being overhauled there.  It was a great pleasure to be able to fire her, a marvelous experience altogether.  She is a superb loco and I can't wait now until we have her sister loco, 7903,  Foremarke Hall back in action on our railway.
6960, Raveningham Hall at the end of her shift