Monday, 11 May 2015

Going Over to the Dark Side

On Friday, the "Planet's Favourite Prairie", 5542, returned to us after a bit of a holiday at the seaside at Minehead on the West Somerset Railway.
5542 back from her holidays.
 She had been spending a lot of time on the beach with her bucket and spade if the rust in the smoke box was anything to go by.  The sea air at Minehead appears to have been just as damaging as the sea air across the Severn at Barry was.
People get sun tans, steam locos just rust!
 Still, there was plenty of evidence of her having been put to use whilst she was at Minehead, clearly it wasn't all just a case of sitting around on the beach.  Not least amongst the tell tale signs were that a number of her boiler's tubes were blocked with soot.   Dinmore Manor is temporarily out of action waiting for some copper pipe to replace one of the injector feeds, so we need 5542 back in action quickly.  

We have several tools for cleaning out boiler tubes, the most popular of which is the vacuum cleaner attachment that the 2807 group have concocted. It is not only effective, but also does a fairly good job of keeping the operator clean at the same time.
Eleanor about to put the 2807 group's vacuum powered tube cleaner to use
 Unfortunately, it turned out that the tubes in 5542's boiler are of a narrower diameter than those in 2807, consequently we got nowhere with that.

Plan B was to try the chimney sweep rods and brush that we used recently on Dinmore Manor, but of course the brush on that was too big too.  Clive is aware and will be ordering some of the right size.
Still too big.
 So much for plans A and B, we were now down to plan C.  Plan C, is not for the faint hearted, get a pipe attached to an air line and blow it through.  This is all well and good if the tube is clear, however if it is blocked, all the soot blows back in your face.  All in all about as much fun as being strapped in a chair and being forced to watch an endless cycle of party political broadcasts.
To add to the joy, the rain kicked in at this point.
 Eleanor had a cunning plan though, block the gap between the air line and the tube with a rag to keep the soot levels down.  It seemed to do the trick.
Cleanliness is next to impossible in a smoke box.
Paul gave it a go too.
 Some tubes are easier to get at from the smoke box, others from within the firebox.  I tried several times to get a photo of Paul at work from the other end in the firebox, but with little success. 
Paul's legs
5542's bunker was largely full of coal dust, with just a few lumps, Brian went in to clear it out:
Brian in the bunker.
Meanwhile, Andy was doing a spot of cleaning.  A loco can get particularly filthy underneath and it helps drivers with their end of day inspections if they can actually see the parts that they are supposed to check.
Andy cleans the underneath of 5542.... least until we needed to drain the boiler anyway
 Phil turned up sporting a new streamlined haircut, dyed yellow along the middle.  Ben decided that he would have to make sure that Phil was colour coordinated with a visiting loco for the gala.  Unfortunately we don't have any yellow liveried locos attending, so he'll have to be stuck on a diesel with yellow front ends instead, and even then only if he dyes the middle part of his hair BR blue.
Phil (l) and Ben
 35006 is starting to look very smart indeed, the lining out is coming on very well.
Looking good
 She has also had her smoke deflectors and stuffing boxes refitted:
Stuffing boxes being refitted
Smoke deflector being carried to the loco
Disappointingly, hopes that she will be in light steam for the gala have been dashed, however it is still planned to move her down to Winchcombe over the gala weekend.  She will still present something of a photo opportunity when being passed by the double headed Bulleids, Wells and Wadebridge.  Access to the footplate should be available too.  This will mark the first occasion that she has left Toddington since she first arrived in 1983.

Work continues on Dinmore Manor's own tender which is making excellent progress.
Ian drilling holes for riveting the steps to the tender frame
Steve (nearest camera) and Rob needle gunning the frames
Mark cutting out something, forgot to ask him what exactly.
I was informed today that Dinmore Manor was the last Manor to work the Cambrian Coast Express,.  The final steam locos being BR standards.  We'll have to see if we can pair her up with a Cambrian Coast Express head board during the coming "Speed to the West" steam gala on the 23rd - 25th May. 

Work is still carrying on with the concreting of the shed floor, Neil was working on his own on road 8 on Saturday. 
Neil at work.
During the week, I had been one of several recipients of an email from Jeff, who was seeking a second man for the DMU.  I wasn't entirely sure what the role required, even though as a fireman I am qualified to do it.  I was pretty certain that there was no need to shovel any coal.  As it turns out, the second man's duties are fairly relaxed; make sure that the driver doesn't do anything silly like pass a signal at danger, occasionally pick up or drop off a token, watch the train in and out of the platforms if the platform is on your side of the train.  Other than that, it was basically just a case of keeping a seat in the cab warm.  A rota was worked out whereby Chris did the fist few round trips, John covered a couple in the afternoon and I stood in for the last round trip.  As John set off for his couple of trips, he muttered "Don't worry, I'm not going over to the dark side".
The DMU at Toddington
Jeff in the driver's seat.
 A real plus point for the DMU is the excellent view you get ahead, far better than you'll manage from any of our steam locos.  A bonus for the passengers is that if they sit close to the leading end, they benefit from the views as well.  We encountered the lineside drainage team just past Didbrook, we had no difficulty spotting them as we approached.
Lineside drainage team at work.
 Returning form Winchcombe, we discovered 4270 heading off for disposal on the pit, along with 37215 getting ready to take over her stock for the last round trip of train 2.
4270 heading off for disposal
37215 backing onto its train.
 Then it was out to Laverton and back
Pleasant views across Stanway viaduct
 Of course, once at Laverton, there was no need to get out, uncouple, run round the train and hook on again at the other end, just walk through the carriages and get in the other cab.  All very civilised, if it had been raining, we'd have stayed dry.
No need to alight at Laverton
 No need to go onto the pit and go through the process of emptying out the ash pan or checking the smoke box, just go straight onto road 2 and park up.
Jeff watches the 37 leave from the cab of the DMU
 And finally, we got round to what I had been rostered to do, fire the evening fish and chip train.
2807 prepares to back onto the "Cheltenham Fryer"
 We took over the loco a couple of hours before we were due off.
Frying tonight!

Steve had volunteered to join us as the cleaner.  As he is just about to start official fireman training, I thought it would be a good idea to let him fire us down to Cheltenham Race Course.  He made a pretty good go of it.
Steve waiting for departure time on 2807
 The train itself was sold out, a couple of friends of mine had tried to book tickets a bit too late.  For anybody who does wish to travel on a fish and chip special, book early to avoid disappointment.

Amongst those who had booked early enough was a large family group, two of whom were celebrating their silver wedding anniversary.  A footplate pass had been arranged for the husband, so he joined us for the trip down to Cheltenham.  I'm not convinced that separating the husband and wife on their anniversary was a good idea, but he seemed happy about it.
Steve and one half of the happy couple
Our passenger seemed to be enjoying himself, even if his wife of 25 years was back on the cushions.
Andy looked quite happy over on his side of the cab too.
Approaching Winchcombe on the outward journey
Having been a keen follower of their blog, I was pleased to confirm with my own eyes that the walls of platform 2 at CRC were now complete.  There is still much to be done here before the platform can be used of course, but this is a significant milestone that has been passed.  Congratulations to all concerned.   Hopefully passengers will be able to use this platform during next year's gala.
CRC platform wall now complete
Steve coupling us back up to the stock
Sun going down at CRC
 Just time for a fish and chip supper at CRC before setting off back.  I should add that I had been informed that we would be going at 20:20, so was caught out a bit with nowhere near enough fire when we were flagged off 10 minutes earlier.  We made it back without running out of steam mercifully.
Steve and Andy, happily scoffing their fish and chips.

1 comment:

  1. I find these really useful for cleaning in tight spaces