Monday, 29 June 2015

Safety valves and Ear Defenders

In the world of the day job, meetings are generally to be welcomed and I consider them to be a success if the following criteria are met:

1) They last all day preventing me from doing any real work, but not extending beyond going home time
2) There is a free lunch (preferably involving free beer)
3) At the conclusion of the meeting, there are no actions on me.

Meetings related to matters on the railway of course are judged entirely differently.  They should be brief and to the point. Within reason I am happy if there are actions on me at the end.  The free lunch element still applies of course.   A meeting on Saturday did last all day & lunch, whilst excellent wasn't free.  I was reduced to taking a quick look around at Toddington to try and work out what everybody had been up to before they all left for the day.

Something that caught my eye was that a nice new display board has appeared in the car par at Toddington by the entrance to the yard highlighting the Cotswold Steam Preservation group and their lovely loco, 2807.  There is a vacant spot for a board adjacent to it which I understand will soon receive a similar display for Dinmore Manor Locomotive LTD and their locos.
Singing the praises of 2807
 By the time that I belatedly turned up at Toddington on Saturday, most of the jobs had been completed and the various volunteers had either drifted off home or were waiting around to help dispose of 2807 (5542 was already back on shed)
Taking it easy after a hard day's work
 There was a small group of people still out in the yard preparing road 7 for eventual concreting in.
Lifting out the track
 Meanwhile, inside the shed, the new indoor pit had received electrical points and lighting in its recesses.
Pit illumination
 The big job that had taken much of the day was painting the top coat on Foremarke Hall's tender.  Note that the tender frames have gone from undercoat to a top coat of black and the tender body has received a first top coat of BR green.
Foremarke Hall's 4000 gallon Hawksworth tender
 Progress has also been made on Dinmore Manor's tender too, all the wheel sets are now in grey undercoat.
7820's tender wheels
 The rest of the tender frames are coming along nicely too, mostly in undercoat now:
7820's tender frames
 Steve has now finished removing all the tubes from 2874.  He's pretty much single handedly got the loco into a position where the boiler can be lifted when the time is right.  Thank you Steve.  The cab roof still needs lifting before the boiler could come out, but that is a relatively trivial task.
The last of 2874's tubes
Tube free boiler
  It's nice to see the tubes are all gone at last.  As it has caused confusion elsewhere, the smoke box tube plate was wasted beyond the point of being salvaged and will be replaced with a new one.

Fresh from her holiday on the Mid Norfolk Railway and freshly washed out during the week, 5542, the Planet's Favourite Prairie (PFP) relaxes on one of the pits after a hard day's work.
The Planet's Favourite Prairis simmering in the afternoon heat
 Soon, 2807 returned from her travels up and down the line.
2807 back after a hard day at work
Jonathan had been out on 2807 for a firing lesson with his instructor Phil.  Judging by this photo that Jonathan sent me, Phil has plenty of confidence in his ability to keep the pressure and water levels up high enough, though something suggests to me that he is not convinced that Jonathan can keep the safety valves quiet.  I can't quite put my finger on what it might be though:
Phil, ensuring that he suffers no hearing damage, photo courtesy of Jonathan Perks
And finally, as mentioned earlier, 5542 is back after her outing to the Mid Norfolk Railway.  I didn't make the journey myself, but Nick Jones of the 5542 group has managed to track down a number of photos taken by people who were there.  Many thanks to Nick and those credited on the upcoming photos:
5542 on the Mid Norfolk Railway, photo courtesy of Gerry Balding

The PFP on the MNR, photo courtesy of Tim Grigg
Well you can just about see through that smoke, interesting to note that she was running as an express.

The final three photos all came from somebody who wished to be identified as "Wymondham Abbey Halt".  My suspicions are aroused that either that's not his (or possibly her) real name or that Mr and Mrs Halt were keen to give Mr & Mrs Brunel a run for their money in the novelty name for a child competition.  Regardless, thank you for the photos.
The PFP, ready to set off.

An interesting composition including some of the native flora

The PFP, ready to depart.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Thomas in Trouble

In the well known and much loved books by the Rev W. Awdry, Thomas the Tank Engine is portrayed as the lovable "Really useful" engine who frequently saves the day.  The truth of course is that every now and again, Thomas needs to be rescued himself.  This weekend was just such an occasion, when Thomas arrived on the railway a few weeks ago, he was found to be very poorly.  Sir Topham Hat, AKA the Fat Controller tucked him up in bed in the David Page shed for a while and came to the conclusion that Thomas wouldn't be well enough to pull his train between Toddington and Winchcombe unaided. Thomas had his safety valves reset to allow him to make enough steam to let him blow his whistle and that was about it.  4270, who to the best of my (admittedly not very extensive) knowledge has no equivalent character in the Thomas books was pressed into service to assist Thomas in pulling his train.

Yours truly had the task of keeping Thomas in light steam on Sunday. 
Henry (l) & Thomas on shed
 From this angle, you can hardly tell that 4270 has been coupled up behind Thomas to push him about.

Steve knew that 4270 was there of course as he had been rostered at short notice to drive it.
Steve oiling up 4270
 Ben being the roster clerk also knew that 4270 was there.
Ben cleaning 4270
 Ben his proudly displaying a tub of some household cleaning product called Vanish (other household cleaning products do exist), which appears to be extremely effective.  Well it certainly made the face on 4270 vanish.

As usual, getting big kettles into steam requires plenty of use of small kettles.  There was an unfortunate incident where Steve managed to pinch Neil's (Henry's driver) cup of tea.
Caught red handed
Ian was Thomas' driver for the day, he rolled his eyes skywards as soon as I pointed my camera at him and said something that wouldn't have appeared in the Thomas books.
Thomas' driver, Ian
 Apart from the tealess Neil, Henry (AKA 2807) was fired by Chris and cleaned by a another Neil.
Chris (l) and the Neil with the tea.
 When Thomas arrives at Winchcombe, there are various activities planned, one of which is the removal of the fish from Thomas' water tanks.  It pays to think ahead and have the fish in plaice place before you set off.

Fish ready and waiting in Thomas' tank
 Another crucial thing to get right is breakfast.   Ian made the mistake of ordering fried egg in his, which is a bit messy to eat:
Thomas' driver said something else that wouldn't appear in the Thomas books.
 Somehow, Jonathan managed to cope even though he had baked beans in his as well.  Quite an achievement.
Jonathan, not afraid of a full English breakfast baguette
 The task for the day was to keep Thomas below 100 PSI, which is where the safety valves had been reset, yet over 80 PSI, which was roughly the point at which the injectors would pick up cleanly.  The injectors as it turned out were pretty temperamental at that low a pressure, you'd get them nicely set, turn your back for a moment or two and they'd suddenly run very wet or start blowing through.  A bit of a challenge.
In the operating zone.  The red line would normally be 170 PSI.
A large number of poppies of varying colours have taken root alongside the line.
This lot were by Toddington signal box
 We could re-brand ourselves to be the "Poppy Line", but alas another railway has beaten us to it.
Thomas & 4270 wait while Henry sets off down the line.
 Never pass a water column in a tank engine.... doubly so if you have two of them.
Jonathan fills up 4270...
... and then Thomas.... the water wasn't shut off quite quickly enough and he got his boots wet
Having two locos double headed all day meant that I only had half the coupling and uncoupling to do.
Ben hooking 4270 onto the stock.
 Jonathan found a novel use for the staff badge that we're supposed to wear when on Thomas events, it doubled up as the button that he's lost off of his bib & brace.
Sooner or later he'll need to get a real button though.
 It wasn't just Thomas that was causing trouble, the trucks were at it too.
The Troublesome trucks at Toddington
 Finally, we were off with the first of our four round trips:
4270 pushes, Thomas takes it easy
 Ian and James in the 04 shunter accompanied by the troublesome trucks briefly accompanied us as we set off.  Thomas' driver wanted to race, but with less than 100 PSI available, that wasn't going to happen.
Thomas' driver settles for blowing Thomas' whistle instead
 Being on the pilot engine, I didn't even need to collect the token, all I needed to do was make sure that Ben had got it before we entered the section.
Ben collects the token
Ian wishing that he had more pressure to play with
The "gala seats" are still outside Carriage & Wagon and they were being put to good use by the crew of the diesel that would take our stock back to Toddington
Diesel crew keeping the seats warm
 As we pulled into the platform at Winchcombe, we were met by Daisy who appeared to be fluttering her eyelashes at Thomas. 
Daisy waiting for us at Winchcombe
I explained to Jonathan about the concept of heirarchy on the footplate.  Thomas' driver had no intention of being told off by the Fat Controller for taking water from the stream and getting a fish trapped in his water tanks.  Thomas' fireman was also disinclined to get a telling off again like last year, especially as he knew that Ian Crowder would be on hand during the day to take photos for the GWSR website.  Thomas' cleaner was therefore left holding the short straw.  
The Fat Controller admonishing Jonathan
 To be honest, Jonathan seemed to be quite keen on doing the fishing and put in an Oscar worthy performance with a fish that apparently was none too keen to be caught.
Jonathan struggling with Moby Fish
Eventually landing the fish with a theatrical flourish
 After the angling expedition, we retreated to the yard at Carriage and Wagon to await the arrival of our stock which the diesel would bring back for us, it was our turn to keep the C&W seats warm for a while.
Steve and Ben take a break from 4270
 Henry appeared briefly to whistle his greetings before setting off back to CRC.  The diagram for Henry is 5 round trips between CRC and Winchcombe without much of a break anywhere.  As their cleaner had needed to disappear off, we decided that it would work out best if Jonathan joined them for much of the rest of the day to give Chris a bit of a break from firing.
2807 Henry running round his stock.
The fireman's turn on Thomas is normally a bit of a tricky one.  You need to light him up and get up enough steam to get 7 coaches down to Winchcombe, then sit around for the think end of an hour before returning to Toddington, the process being repeated 4 times.  All of this without blowing off as it tends to scare the children.  Jonathan had thus far done the light up and the firing of Thomas and to his credit had kept the fire alive, kept water space in the glass and the pressure gauge below 100 PSI yet over 80.  

Meanwhile, I was informed that there would shortly be a planned emission of steam from 4270's safety valves.
Feathering heavily.
 Somebody (sorry, I can't remember who) suggested that the NPT (Newport) shed code on 4270 stood for "Now Pushing Thomas".
NPT... Now Pushing Thomas
 Eventually, the diesel reappeared with our carriages for us to take back to Toddington.

It was at this point that my camera broke.  The cheap and cheerful point and shoot camera that has served me so well for this blog as finally demised.  It has served me well. Up until recently, plan B in the event of the camera failing was to use the camera on my phone, but since a recent unfortunate (and expensive) incident, I have concluded that the footplate is no place for such technology and have taken to not carrying it with me any more.   This is something of a pity,  you will have to imagine Ben doing the angling part and putting in a performance to rival Jonathan's earlier.  There was never any danger of photos appearing of me doing the water topping up exercise however if you take a look at the main GWSR website,  Ian Crowder caught Ian doing it.  "He's even worse with a camera than you are" said Thomas' driver when he returned to the cab.

One of the more amusing incidents occurred after Ben's angling performance.  That was the final outing for the fish during the day and Ian thought that it would be a good idea to take a photo of it being cooked on the shovel.  The poor fish was sat there for quite some time whilst Ian tried to work out how to take a photo using his phone and it started gently smoking (must be a kipper) before it was hastily withdrawn.
Frying tonight, photo courtesy of Ian Butler
Something that I don't recollect from previous Thomas days was the presence of Bulgy the bus who ostensibly raced Thomas between Toddington and Winchcombe.  Unfortunately the "racing" doesn't appear to have done Bulgy any good at all as he broke down by the end.
Bulgy the bus, photo courtesy of Jonathan Perks
I knew that Thomas was going to need to depart for some attention after the gala was over, what I wasn't expecting was that Thomas was to be loaded onto a lorry and whisked away as soon as we got back to Toddington at the end of the day.  No time to cool down etc, just go through disposal and then straight onto a lorry.  Needless to say, I made sure that the boiler was filled to the whistle before she went and that she wasn't making any steam.  I doubted that the lorry driver would have noticed if she had been blowing off as she went up the M5 and M6, much less known what to do to run an injector. 

Once back in the car park and with access to my phone, I was able to take one last shot of Thomas about to be loaded onto a lorry to go back to Llangollen Sodor for a bit of TLC.
Thomas about to depart
And finally, Dinmore Manor had a very successful outing to the Epping and Ongar Railway's gala and has now arrived on the Dartmouth Steam Railway for the summer season.  I have received a couple of photos of her at the Epping and Ongar Railway both of which are courtesy of Paul Arnold:
7820 on the E&O
7820 on the E&O.  The blue and grey stock will please some.