Tuesday, 16 June 2015

All Change

Tom is just 17 and graduated to the Steam Loco Dept from the Young People's Group sometime last year.  With a wisdom far beyond his years, he welcomed me as I arrived at Toddington on Saturday with the words "How do you take your tea?".   He'll go far.  For the benefit of any other cleaners who may read this, white, no sugar is the answer.   A recently issued memo suggested that new trainee firemen should be given the opportunity to get in practice at warming fires and light ups, so I had arranged with Tom to arrive a little earlier than usual so that we could go through the light up process.

There are plenty of things to check long before you get anywhere near rubbing two boy scouts together lighting a match.  The notices at the signing on point, checking that the loco was serviceable and hadn't changed, along with the fault record card were just for starters.  I already knew from Dan who had kindly sorted out a warming fire for me on Friday (Thanks Dan) that I was no longer to be on 5542 which has a few minor issues to be sorted, but on 4270 instead.  The other change that I hadn't tumbled to until Saturday morning was that there was a driver swap too, it was now Ben instead of Paul

In line with the forecast, it was a grey and rainy morning, definitely a day to be on a tank engine with a nice warm enclosed cab like 4270 than the rather more open and exposed cab of a tender engine such as 2807 for instance.

All the checks done, Tom got on with preparing the loco by emptying out the smoke box and raking through the grate.
In a blur of activity, Tom empties out the smoke box...

...and, raking the ash through the grate
The weather was intermittent, heavy grey skies promising rain one minute and then delivering what they had promised the next.  Anthony turned up to help out with cleaning and kindly fetched a barrow load of wood for lighting up from the wood store.  Whilst Tom was busy raking through the grate, I relocated the barrow to be as far under the running plate as possible to keep the wood dry.  There was no point in making Tom's task any harder than it needed to be.
Keeping the wood dry
Anthony cleaning the boiler barrel
To be fair, the bits where the sky was just grey, but not actually raining were few and far between, most of the time it was just raining with varying degrees of intensity.  As has been noted on these pages before, you're on a bit of a hiding to nothing cleaning a steam loco in the pouring rain.  Most cleaners if they are at all wise will find something in the cab to clean.
Hard to tell from here, but there are at least 3 people huddling together on 2807's footplate
Fire going, Tom and Anthony try to dry out in front of it
The drivers of course just have to get on with oiling up the loco regardless of the weather.  The bits underneath and in the cab that need attending to are reasonably well protected from the elements, but for some lubrication points, there is simply nothing for it but to get out there and get on with it.  Ben's technique is to use a hoody in an attempt to keep himself dry
Better than nothing I suppose
Not being of the hoody generation, Andy just cracked on with it regardless
Andy oiling 2807
Originally, Ben had been supposed to be Steve's firing instructor for the day on 2807, but since Ben had needed to swap to driving 4270, Clive was now standing in as firing instructor.  Clive was hiding in the cab to keep dry, Steve appears to be seeking divine inspiration in his quest to get the fire lit.
Staying dry in 2807.
Graham has taken the view that cleaning anything under the shelter of the running plate is an ideal way of getting the job done and staying dry at the same time.
Graham, polishing the rods of 2807.
I was given the tip by John that a family of robins was nesting in a pipe in the the David Page shed and in spite of their diminutive size, the adults were vigorously defending the chicks in their nest.  Your intrepid reporter fearlessly set off in search of the nest, however, when I located it, the chicks had already flown and the nest was empty.
Empty nest
Whilst I was in there, I noted that road seven now appears to be complete and is awaiting shuttering & concreting
Road 7
Eventually, we were off on our way:
Ben, taking it easy in the office.
The water had been a little low before we had set off.  4270 when full has easily enough water for a round trip of the line, but we decided to play safe and fill her up at CRC.
Tom seemed to like it up there
On the way down to CRC, I had noticed Mike, my old Physics teacher from what must be three or four years ago now (remember, I'm still only 21) was lurking on platform 1.  On the return journey he popped over to platform two to pass the time of day.  It seems that he has succumbed to the inevitable GWSR mission creep and now not only volunteers at Broadway, but also in the cafe on Winchcombe station.  I didn't think to take a photo at the time, so here is one I took a few weeks ago at the Broadway station BBQ on the Friday before the steam gala.  I made some pathetic excuse about having left my homework on the bus before we carried on to Toddington.
Mike (right) at Broadway station
Crossing 2807 at Winchcombe
Remember, up until a few days before, we had been expecting to be taking 5542 out on this turn.  Nick of the Planet's Favourite Prairie owning group had paid us a visit with the intention of taking a ride out on the footplate for one trip.  As usual, the best laid plans and all that.  Nick was now here to help fix 5542.  Ben still persuaded him to join us as far as Winchcombe where he could quickly switch trains and ride back to Toddington again.

Ben & Nick (r)
Tom had not yet fired a round trip before, so I let him have a go for the second round trip.  All was going well, until departure time came, and so did a late running coach full of visitors.  This put us back by somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes, by which time 4270 was of course more than ready and was blowing off a bit.
Late running coach slowly transferring its passengers onto the train
Poor Tom was looking quite glum about it, but to be fair, few firemen could have kept a free steaming loco like 4270 quiet after that long a delay.
Another by firelight portrait in Greet tunnel
Steaming out of Greet tunnel
There was no more blowing off after Winchcombe and the rest of the way there and back was done with good water and pressure.  Pretty good for a first attempt.

Not necessarily being the most observant person on the planet, I noticed for the first time on Saturday that CRC sports a vegetable garden.  I wonder if this means that you can buy fresh veg in the station shop.
Your five a day.
Crossing 2807 again at Winchcombe
The gala benches set up outside Carriage and Wagon are still in situ, but nobody was using them.  I wasn't sure if that was down to the miserable weather (it hadn't cleared up at lunch time as the forecast had promised) or the fact that we were no longer running any visiting locos.  For the third round trip, a single photographer was stood by them, but not actually sitting on them.  I'm sure if they put the benches away again, that will guarantee the return of the sunshine.
The C&W rain inducing benches
During the week, the platform edges have been installed on CRC platform 2.  It's really starting to take shape and look like a platform now.  Hopefully the CRC2 blog will be seeing an update in the near future to keep us up to speed with the excellent progress that is obviously being made there.
Neatly edged platform 2 at CRC

2807 has finished for the day, 24081 takes the third round trip for train 2
I was rather curious about the headcode being displayed by 24081, it's certainly not one that appears in our rule book.  If that last white circle was opened, then it would have been indicating that it was hauling the Royal train.  Perhaps it is meant to be some sort of celebration of the fact that the GWSR has recently been honoured with the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.
Tom, Anthony and Ben, topping up the tanks at the end of the day
That was our day done, apart from disposal, but once we'd emptied the ash pan and done the usual checks, it was time to pass over 4270 to the relief crew who would be taking her out on a fish and chip special in the evening.
Anthony & Tom raking out the ash pan.
4270 ready for action once more
Last job of the day, empty the pit.
Just about everybody had disappeared to the pub home by the time we had disposed of 4270 and handed her over to the evening crew for her fish and chip turn.  I took a wander round the David Page shed to try and find any evidence of what had been going on during the day.

Dinmore Manor's tender is looking much more together now, some of the plating has been added around the edges and more priming/undercoating has taken place.
Dinmore Manor's tender frames
The tender's wheels are coming along too, all have been needle gunned, one set primed and another in undercoat.
Dinmore Manor's tender wheels
I have no idea what works have taken place on 35006 as there was nobody left about to ask. She no longer sports her nameplates, but the smoke box number plate and smoke deflectors are still fitted.
A number, not a name.
Gone (well mostly gone), but far from forgotten, Foremarke Hall's tender is the only large chunk of her on site at the moment.  At an antisocially early 07:00 on Sunday, Steve and John set about putting the first undercoat of paint on it.  This should give a clue to the livery that she will be appearing in when she's finished.
Foremarke Hall's tender, photo courtesy of Steve Jones
I understand that Steve R had paid a visit and had made further inroads into removing the tubes from 2874's boiler.  No pictures of that I'm afraid.

And finally, there will be plenty of fun for all the family next weekend when a certain really useful engine pays us a visit.  Will Henry get bricked up in the tunnel?  Will the Fat Controller have to give any of our locos a stern talking to?  Will the troublesome trucks be sent to sit on the naughty step?  Wait for next week's enthralling episode to find out.


  1. is 7903 going to be BR black

  2. Good to meet up with you on Saturday, Mr Blogmeister! I'm not so sure I helped much in the repair of 5542. I'm sure I was much less useful than you imply ;-) But she was all back together again on Sunday, and, on Tuesday, I was pleased to have a trip out on her.
    Congratulations due to all who work so hard to keep the fleet going. The added sparkle to the PFP is always noticed.

    1. Hi Nick,

      It was good to meet you too. I understand that there was a lot of hard work required to get the PFP fettled in time for the Mid Norfolk, I'm sure that you are understating your involvelement in that. I'm glad you managed to get a spin out on her in the end. I'm very much looking forward to the group's day in July.