Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Future Darwin Award Nominees

First some excellent news,  Bill Tyndall, one of the GWSR's signalmen who as you may recollect from my report on the steam loco dept's away weekend last year moonlights as a passed fireman on the Talyllyn railway.  Well, I should say that he did moonlight as a passed fireman, as of Sunday, he has now passed out as a driver.  Congratulations Bill.
Bill & his daughter Juliet, who is a guard on the Talyllyn railway.
I wasn't able to be around for last week's Wartime in the Cotswolds event, however Chris has sent me a few photos of our locos in action.
2807 departing Toddongton, photo courtesy of Chris Crump.
Dinmore Manor about to depart from Toddington, photo courtesy of Chris Crump
Nothing to do with steam, but one of the highlights of the weekend was a Spitfire overflight on the Sunday.  Rumours that the Spitfire was being flown by Steve, our head of training, turned out not to be true, much as he might have liked it to have been.

I received a message in the middle of the week from Phil which read simply "Do you want to swap engines on Sunday?".  I was able to infer from that several important things; it was forecast to rain, that I was to be on 4270, and Phil was getting one of our tender engines.  Not being a complete idiot, I declined his offer, preferring to stay nice and warm and dry on 4270 than getting soaked on Dinmore Manor or 2807.   On Friday as I was passing Toddington on the way back from a work event, I called in to make sure that 4270 was also running on the Saturday and wouldn't therefore need a warming fire putting in.  Whilst I was there doing that I took the opportunity to have a quick look round and see what else was going on:

For the very first time, I found somebody depositing rags into our rag collection bin in the yard.  I've emptied the bin on many occasions, but never yet seen anybody put anything into it.  I'm afraid that I don't know this gentleman's name, but I did discover that he is from our Signal & Telegraph dept.
Thank you.
 I haven't mentioned the rag collection point for some time, as it has been extremely successful and we have had quite a pile of rags. The gala however is only a few weeks away and we will be requiring more, so this would be a good time to ask for any old rags if you have them.

The pit on road 7 is looking good, the area around it has been leveled ready for concreting and  notice a drainage inspection hole has appeared next to it.
It's looking good.
 George was busy at work on the one car DMU, well DMU is a bit of a misnomer really as there is only the one of it, DSU would be more apt. Most people just refer to it as the "Bubble car".  Regardless, George was busy welding in some new sections of body work.
Who was that masked man?
The bubble car has been in the David Page shed for a while now and has inevitably picked up a good layer of dust.  I noticed that one of our resident artists (I suspect I know which one) has been at work:
Perhaps the bubble car is aspiring to being a steam engine...
... or perhaps it is just dreaming of being as free as a bird.
 Dinmore Manor's real tender is making good progress, Roy & Ian (camera shy, stepped out of the way at the last moment) were hard at work on it.
Roy, suddenly alone.
 Move on to Sunday morning, your's truly arrives bright and early to light up 4270 for the day's work.  As I had inferred from Phil's plea, it was raining, quite heavily
Steve, trying to keep dry on Dinmore Manor.
 Today was John's first driver training lesson under the tutelage of Neil, our Operations Manager.  Just because it is raining is no excuse not to do the oiling up. You'll notice that I took this next photo of them oiling up from a nice dry cab.  To tell the truth, I was already soaked through from emptying the smoke box.  I had been surprised at just how much ash had accumulated in the smoke box and I will confess, I harboured dark thoughts about the previous day's fireman who couldn't possibly have emptied it out on Saturday morning.  Later on in evening when we got back and I checked the smoke box, even though I had diligently cleaned it all out in he morning, it still contained just as much as I had cleared out.  Maybe with the current coal, 4270 really does generate that much ash in the smokebox.
Neil watches John oiling up 4270
One of the one and a half bins of ash that I emptied out of the smokebox.
 After I'd got my fire going and done a bit of cleaning in the cab, it was time for a brew:
I'm sure we get through more tea than coal
 Just before we left the shed, the rain cleared up and Steve had a stab at polishing Dinmore Manor's brass work.  Not so easy when it's wet.  Mercifully for them, the rain cleared up then for the rest of the day.
Steve at work
 4270 was blowing light and had been left with no water space in the boiler, I was keen to see her attached to the stock and get the steam heating attached so that I could lose a bit of surplus steam.  

Neil fetched us both breakfast from the Flag & Whistle.
John (l) and Neil with breakfast
I noted form the Carriage and Wagon blog that they have put up a couple of seats to allow them to watch the action from the upcoming "Speed to the West" gala on May 23rd - 24th.  If you're reading this chaps, please don't put a BBQ out there too, it will guarantee that we get rain.
Carriage and Wagon's new benches.
John did remarkably well on his first driver training lesson and coped unphased with a number of incidents that came up.  The first was the signal for the loop at Gotherington (the box being open for signalman training) which wouldn't come off.  Neil phoned the signal box, walked up the track to check that the points had swing across and that the interlocking had locked the points in place before reporting back to say that we were authorised by the signalman to pass the signal at danger. 
Neil off to check the points
 The second incident was on the second trip whilst running around at Cheltenham Race Course.  As we were just setting off back from the Hunting Butts tunnel end, Neil shouted "Stop, stop, stop" with some urgency.  Thinking that something dreadful had happened, John immediately slammed on the brakes bringing us to a halt as quickly as 4270 can manage.  Whilst we had been in the platform, Neil had revisited some of the oiling & grease points on 4270 and had not placed the grease gun securely back in container in the cab and when we set off it had rolled out of the cab.  Needless to say, it was the poor fireman who had to wander back and retrieve it and of course it was the fireman's fault.  I'd have passed the blame onto the cleaner if we'd had one, but we didn't, so the blame stopped with me.
Grease gun by the track, 4270 waits.
 Later on, Neil commented on one of the runs that John was looking much more confident, not feeling the need to keep one hand on the regulator all the time.
Look mum.... no hands.
And finally, I try to keep the tone of this blog fairly light hearted, I will confess to having received report cards at school with the word "Flippant" appearing on them and even once a detention for "Passing a comment calculated to disrupt".  There are times however to be serious and this I'm afraid is one of them.  Please do not read any further than this is you are of a squeamish or sensitive nature, unless you are the parent of a teenager living in Bishops Cleeve, in which case please read on.

In fact, I'll start with parenting in general. One of the fireman's duties is to watch the train into and out of station platforms and make sure that there are no problems that would require the train to stop.  One of the things that scares the hell out of me is when arriving in a platform and some youngster decides to race the train along the platform.  One trip, roll the wrong way, and the consequences really don't bear thinking about.  On Sunday, there was even a young girl doing cartwheels on platform 1 at Toddington as we pulled into the station.  It is lovely to see our visitors enjoying themselves, but there are times and places for everything and our platforms are really not the place.  There is a perfectly good children's amusement area behind the Flag & Whistle at Toddington for your children to let off a little steam of their own if they need to.  It pains me to say it, but I have no doubt that when I was of Junior school age, I too would have raced our trains along platforms given half the chance.  Parents, please discourage your children from doing it, I really don't need any more grey hairs and I doubt that the paper work involved afterwards would be much fun either.

Anyway, to the main point, excluding barrow crossings at the ends of some of our platforms, there are seven (from memory) crossings on our line where people may, if no trains are coming, walk across the line.  Six of those are in the middle of nowhere and you rarely ever see a soul crossing them, the seventh however is in the middle of the busy town of Bishops Cleeve.  It is rare that you go through Bishops Cleeve without seeing somebody on the crossing, usually they are stood on one side or the other, behind the gates just watching the trains pass by, which is fine.  Occasionally we see people crossing when we are some way off, it causes comment in the cab and the use of the whistle, but it's not a major concern.  We have a speed restriction of 15 MPH for some distance either side of the crossing.  15 MPH may not sound like much.  It is fair to say that I have been heard to complain at great length to anybody who will listen about a certain Mayor who has introduced a blanket 20 MPH speed limit in the city that I live.  There is however a world of difference between being struck by a car at 20 MPH or even 30 MPH and being struck by a train at 15 MPH.  For an adult, hit head on by a car at 30 MPH, chances are that the impact will be mitigated by the point of impact being your lower legs, your torso will usually roll over the bonnet.  Your legs might be a bit mashed up, but the survival statistics are very good.  It's also fair to say that the brakes on a modern car are also extremely efficient (regardless of what the Highway Code would have you believe) and can stop in a fairly short distance.  The brakes of one of our steam trains however are trying to stop a combined weight of carriages, loco and passengers well in excess of 300 tons.  You shouldn't be surprised to discover that bringing 300 tons to a halt doesn't happen in a hurry.  The dynamics of being hit by a train are also very different to that of being hit by a car, the point of impact will be much higher, you won't just roll over it, you'll go under and no matter how slim you might be, there is a lot of stuff under a steam loco to hit you, it won't just roll over you letting you emerge unscathed at the other end. I did write out a description of what the likely effect on the human body would be of being run over by one of our trains, but have decided to edit it out.  The bottom line is that it won't end well. In an argument between a human being and a train there is only ever going to be one winner.  I was about to say that there are no prizes for coming second, but then I remembered the title of this blog post. All of the above should really be common sense.  Unfortunately in spite of its name, common sense appears to be a scarce commodity amongst some of the youth of Bishops Cleeve who have taken it into their heads that "playing chicken" with the trains is a good idea.  

It is worth remembering that this was John's first driving lesson, it is just as well that he wasn't flustered and managed to bring the train safely to a halt albeit just yards short of the crossing. A less proficient trainee may not have been so quick off the mark.  As it was, if we had been going in the downhill direction rather than uphill and if one of the half a dozen or so kids involved had tripped, or slipped on a wet rail etc then we could easily have been looking at a fatality.

If you are the parent or teacher of a teenager living in or around Bishops Cleeve, please do try and make them aware of the dangers and encourage them to see the error of their ways. I'm fairly sure that I have linked to this video in the past, but there is no harm in repeating myself, it's an important message to get across.  Unless you want your kids to receive Darwin Award nominations (look it up if you don't know), please educate them about the dangers of railway crossings.

Edit:  changed link above to go to the right place.


  1. Hi,

    Is there any news on a third visitor for the Steam Gala?


  2. Hi Andrew,

    We hope to be in a position to announce the third gala visitor before the end of this week. Watch this space.

  3. the seats are actually the same seats that we have been using at C&W for a couple of years. Just a new coat of paint.

    1. Well I hope you enjoy the show that we put on from your ringside seat. Many thanks indeed for all your hard work in getting the carriages and freight trains together without which the gala would fall rather flat.