Monday, 1 June 2015

Speed To The West, the Epilogue

I received an email from John during the week extolling the virtues of the Wednesday gang:

What a Wednesday – 27th May

I will start by giving my apologies for no pictures. In short we simply did not have time.

Now with the excellent gala over you might be thinking the work is done? This Wednesday proved to be far from the case and I will go as far as saying it has been one of the busiest Wednesday’s I have experienced since I joined the team in 2009.

So what was happening? Firstly can I set the background. Wednesday’s is the days when a growing group of us get together to clear the unfinished work from the previous weekend and start getting everything ready for the next weekend. Sorry to shatter the myth but there is no magic fairy that clean’s the grates etc.

1.    Clean all grates, fireboxes and ashpan’s.

2.    Restock the wood store.

3.    Regularly clean the pits

4.    Carryout running repairs, even changing springs on occasion’s!

5.    Progressing the various restoration projects

6.    And so the list goes in, especially when you include a further few hours shunting the yard to get everything in its right place.

Yesterday seemed to explode with activity right from the start at 08.00hrs.

The driver for the day’s service wanted the tender brakes adjusted on 7820 before he left shed. After an initial reluctance by the adjusters to free off the 7903 brake adjusting spanner came into play and that by its sheer weight soon had things moving. One of our newer volunteers gave me a hand and found it very educational.

Fortunately a small team had gone in on Tuesday and had made a serious start on some of the smokeboxes etc and also got Raveningham Hall ready for departure. We then carried on their good work attending to the two tank engines plus the spam can’s (34007 & 34092) as they had been too hot the previous day. Now the 04 shunter did find it a bit of a challenge to move the two spam can’s together but with a bit of TLC she succeeded. We needed them on the pits so as we could clean out the ashpan’s thoroughly.

Now throw in P Way department that wanted the area in front to roads 6 & 7 cleared so as they could start track laying on road 7 as well as removing the ground on and alongside road 7 outside so as the track can be lifted sometime soon as it is currently far too low. Yet more shunting!!

Meanwhile the “King of the Wood Store” our Roger along with his band of merry men was busy tidying up the store and then started the process of restocking it. Yet another myth shattered there is no magic woodman, well not unless you want to call Roger and his team magic. In my opinion it is one of those jobs that can make the start of a fireman’s day easy or hard. We have more easy starts than hard starts thanks to these lads.

Just after our lunch we had a pit stop with the service train, the tender brakes needed another half a turn on the adjusters to get them up tighter. So out came the 7903 brake adjusting spanner and the job was done. They also needed a bit more coal as we deliberately are running the tender low as 7820 is off on its travels next week.

Meanwhile John H has removed the faulty injector steam pipe to attend to the blowing joint. He has also removed a water delivery pipe ready for Ian C to fit the pep pipe adaptor too. He then set about making all the new joints ready for refitting next week.

There was also the usual riveting noise coming from the DP shed as Ian C and his Wednesday team set about more riveting on Dinmore’s tender frames.

Neil Cooper and Tim Bazeley were working with the P way team to help with everything, followed on by more packing of road 8.

Now you might be under the preconception that the Wednesday gang are all retired? Whilst the majority are there are a few of the younger members of the department that regularly come as their work pattern or annual holiday’s gives them a free Wednesday. If you have an occasional or regular free Wednesday then please feel free to come along. The Wednesday team are a really cracking group of people who will always welcome new comers!

So when you next turn up to crew an engine, and she is all prepared ready for you to do a day’s work then the Wednesday lads have done their bit!!!!!

Almost forgot, showed around a group of visitor’s from the North Norfolk railway as well as talk to a few visitors in the viewing area so throw in a bit of PR as well!

 It seems that the Wednesday gang and the Saturday gang are now engaged in some sort of competition judging by that and by this message that I found scrawled on the notice board on Saturday morning:

The gauntlet is thrown down.
 So anyway, some time ago I was rostered for Sunday 31st May, and all was well.  Subsequently, at fairly short notice a photo charter was arranged with Wells and Wadebridge double headed on the evening of Saturday the 30th.  That would have taken the first crew over their hours if they had stayed on that long, so a split shift was contrived.  Neil and myself would cover the first round trip of the day on Wells, then Ben and Andy would take over for the rest of the day, including the charter.  Thus it was that I pitched up bright and early on Saturday morning to light up Wells.

Checking the smoke box revealed that those kind people in the Wednesday gang had indeed been as good as their word and emptied it of ash.  Thanks guys.  If you were every curious about seeing the blast pipe arrangement inside the smoke box, then here it is.
Cross between a Mekon and Darth Vader.
 The warming fire had been a big one and was still lit well across the centre of the grate.  I took the view that the owners wouldn't like a still burning fire dropping into their ash pan, so I raked the ash from around the edges and lit up on it.
Andy cleaning Wells
 Needless to say, as usual the morning loco prep ritual involved tea
Aaron (l) & Phil with the tea.
 The pair of spam cans did look rather nice in the morning sun
Basking in the sunshine
 It is usual for a loco on loan to another railway to have an owner's representative around to look after their locos.  On this occasion, we didn't have a representative, but one of the owners in person. 
I think his name was Richard, sorry if I got it wrong
 Having been a bit over enthusiastic with getting Wadebrige into steam last week, I was far more cautious with Wells.  The approach paid off, I had enough steam to get onto our stock, without troubling the safety valves.
Steam, only from the places it is supposed to emerge
 Having two ostensibly identical spam cans on hand, it was surprising the number of differences between them.  The obvious one in the smoke box, the Geisl Ejector has already been mentioned.  The steam operated fire hole doors are an ornament on most other Bulleids I understand, the one fitted to Wells actually worked.
Looks the same as Wadebridge's
Ajax fire hole door actuating mechanism
The operating treadle
 Being of an inquisitive nature, I switched the automagic firehole doors on and stood on the treadle.  The doors swung open with a furious clang and shut in a similar manner.  I took the view that no good would come of it, the likely result being slicing the shovel in two, or worse, one of my arms.  I turned it back off again.

Another, rather more obvious difference was that there was a damper on Wells, just the one, but that was one more than Wadebridge.  I was very thankful to see it.
Not an original fitting, but very handy.
 I was interested to note that the generator handle on Wells was 90 degrees offset from the one on Wadebridge.  I have no idea which one, if either was set up as Bulleid intended

Handle out = off on Wells, but on when it comes to Wadebridge
Another difference was that the blower was only on the driver's side, the connecting rod and arm to reach across to the fireman's side was missing.  Curiosly the atomiser (cylinder lubrication) control was on the fireman's side on both locos.

Wells came complete with an operators manual which contained plenty of advice and instructions on the preparation, operation and disposal of Wells.  Most of it was straight forward common sense, but I was amused to note that I was forbidden to take it onto the turntable at Keighley as it was too long.  I was fairly confident that I wasn't going to do that.

The spam cans had been a big draw during the gala and continued to be so on Saturday.  We had Chris and Graham join us on the footplate.
(l-r) Chris, Graham & Neil, my driver for this trip
At CRC, the railway's spokesman got in on the act too:
Ian (l) & Graham
 Work was evidently continuing on CRC platform 2, however their blog seems to have disappeared.  I hope it comes back soon.
Still hard at it on CRC platform 2
 Everything had been going rather well on Wells from the firing point of view on the way down to CRC, but I slightly overdid it for the return journey.  A lack of familiarity and a desire to make sure we didn't run out of steam led me to put on what turned out to be more coal than was strictly necessary for the return journey.  With the exception of a couple of seconds as we passed Bishops Cleeve, I managed to keep her under control with the injectors and damper, but the two seconds of safety valve action produced a distinct chuckle from the other side of the footplate.  I didn't need to touch the shovel all the way back to Toddington.

Andy volunteers in both the SLD and Carriage & Wagon.  He's obviously blessed with way too much free time.  He recently emailed me a photo himself aged 8 on the footplate of Wells in 1966 whilst she was still incarcerated in Barry Island scrap yard. 
Andy (r) at Winchcombe
Andy on Wells in 1966
 Moving ahead nearly 50 years, here we have Wells again, with our relief crew, Ben (l) and Andy in the cab, Neil in front of the loco.
Nearly half a century later
I was a little bemused to discover that the young people's group had kindly set me up a bath tub in the car park.  A bit too cold and exposed for me though, I decided to give it a miss and make use of the shower in the volunteer's accommodation.
Young people's group and water.... a dangerous combination!
  We have a Thomas event taking place on June 20th and 21st and a certain "Really useful engine" has already appeared in the yard for the event.
Just another blue tank engine wearing a bag over it's head.
 Many remarks have been made regarding Phil's non-GWR regulation haircut. Collett would have turned in his grave, never mind Churchward!  Anyway, the penny has finally dropped, he's been using it to paint that "Really useful engine". 
Phil uses his head!
Wells hadn't been issued with a coal rake in her tender, and in time honoured fashion I nicked one from another loco.  The obvious choice was Dinmore Manor as she was about to depart for the Epping and Ongar Railway for a short visit.  To my horror, I later noticed that all the water was draining out of her tender via an injector overflow.  Imagining that I had inadvertently knocked one of the injector water feeds in her tender, I rushed across to turn it off only to discover that Mark had just done it deliberately as the water needed draining from her tender for the move.
Dinmore Manor in a pool of her own water
Rumours that the Epping and Ongar Railway is about to feature as the set for another film have been denied by that railway however that hasn't stopped the queue of  SLD members signing up for the role of owner's reps stretching across the car park and half way to Winchcombe.

Other than draining the tender and boiler, much other work had needed doing on Dinmore Manor before she could depart.
One of the tender springs was changed
New brake blocks fitted
 The grate had largely been cleared of ash, but I went in and finished it off.  The ash pan wanted emptying, but the ash pit was occupied by a certain "Really in the way engine".  We're not supposed to drop ash in the new pits, but I had a cunning plan, liberally douse the ash with water as usual, then instead of raking it out into the pit, rake it directly into a strategically placed wheel barrow.
Damping down the ash
Perfect, no ash at all in the pit.
 Part of the plan for the evening's photo charter was to position 35006 in the parlour road, alongside Wells and Wadebridge for a three loco line up.  As 35006 is not yet ready to move under its own steam, I needed to sweet talk somebody passed out on driving one of the shunters to do the job.  Jamie was busy needle gunning the wheels for Dinmore Manor's own tender:
Ralph (l) and Jamie, needle gunning the tender wheels.
Jamie in the 04, shunting 35006
Thanks Jamie.

The end reuslt was a rather pleasing line up of three of Mr Bulleid's finest:
(l-r), Wadebridge, Wells & 35006
I forgot to mention it in one of the earlier gala posts, but Wadebridge is currently paired with the tender that 35006 ran with at the end of her BR service and subsequently went into Barry Island scrap yard with.  The one that 35006 has now was scratch built.  I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that a surreptitious swap takes place in the middle of the night, just before Wadebridge returns to the Mid Hants Railway.

Anyway, the three Bulleid line up was a popular start to the photo charter
Even some of  the crew got in on the act.
 Plan A and plan B for how the charter would proceed were shelved as the weather threatened to turn to rain soon after we started.   Plan C was implemented instead which invoved staying as close as possible to Toddington to make the most of the light available to us.  A wise decision as it turned out.
Wells leads Wadebridge just past Stanway viaduct
Coming off the viaduct
Ben enjoying the evening
 Up at the first pedestrian crossing north of Laverton, there was the possibility of a silhouette shot, with the sun just making it's way through some thin cloud.
Speeding to the west
Silhouetted spam
Wells isn't known as 'The volcano' for nothing
 Finally, we tried a few shots bursting out of Greet tunnel, before the light gave way.
Exiting Greet tunnel
The evening was finished off with a staged night shoot at Toddington, though unusually I didn't have a tripod with me, so no photos of my own of that bit.  It went down very well though.


  1. Yes, the Wednesday gang are brill, great bunch of lads who work hard with a great big smile.

    hurrah hurrah hurrah, the wednesday gang are the best!

  2. The would appear to be a plethora of inappropriate apostrophe's (sic) this week. Is the recent non-GWR influence causing a drop in standards from Swindon to Derby or Eastleigh?