Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Buckets, Spades and Steam

As you may be aware, 7820, Dinmore Manor, one of our resident locos has been spending much of the summer playing on the Dartmouth Steam Railway (DSR).  That seemed like a good excuse to Dinmore Manor Locomotive LTD (DMLL) to pay her a visit and see how she was getting along in her home from home.  Friday was the chosen date and we all packed our buckets and spades and set off bright and early to converge on Paignton.  For a certain few of us, a last minute decision was taken to set off even earlier and call in at the South Devon Railway (SDR) on the way, which is technically the home of 5542, the Planet's Favourite Prairie (PFP). After a recent well publicised contretemps on the mainline, the workshop at Buckfastleigh was playing host to a certain celebrity loco:
Number 9, feeling a bit sorry for itself
Plans were hatched to kidnap Union of South Africa and take her back to Toddington with us.  Sadly there wasn't enough room in the boot of my car.
Dan was keen to try out the driver's side of the cab for size
 Amusingly, a photo of Dan stood in front of 4920, Dumbleton Hall taken shortly after this, which was posted to a certain well known social media website led to ill informed speculation that DMLL had purchased Dumbleton Hall and was about to return it to steam.  Never believe what you read on the web, especially on this blog!

The South Devon Railway is very well equipped for all manner of work with wheels
Turning a new tyre
Furnace for expanding tyres to fit onto wheels
Machining bearing surfaces
 One of DMLL's other locos, 3850, which is shortly to finish her 10 year boiler ticket and come to Toddington for her next overhaul is in need of a new set of tyres.  The tyres have already been made and are somewhere at Buckfastleigh waiting to be fitted.

Ray Lee from the 5542 group, who works at the SDR and who often turns up at Toddington when the PFP needs some attention, has his own office down there.
I thought better of investigating any further.
After the warm hospitality of the South Devon Railway, we set off on the short journey across to Paignton to catch catch up with Dinmore Manor.
Dan & Mark with the star of the show
They've been keeping her nice and clean down there.
DMLL had reserved the Devon Belle observation coach for travel in both directions.
7820 enters the run round loop, passing the Devon Belle
They're a cheery lot, the DMLL group.
Plush upholstery and large picture windows in the Devon Belle
The weather was typical British summer seaside drizzle in the morning.  Once we'd taken the ferry across to Dartmouth, we set off for the eating establishment recommended by the footplate crew on Dinmore Manor.  Mark had a bit of a surprise when he got there!
He didn't know it, but he was booked as the evening entertainment
There was time enough for a trip out on the river Dart on the paddle steamer, Kingswear Castle.  Not the sort of castle that you might have seen heading the Cornishman along our line back in the 1950s, but a fine beast nonetheless.  Power to the paddles was provided by a 2 cylinder coal fired condensing steam engine, spinning at a leisurely 42 RPM max.  I don't think that the general public are supposed to visit the engine room, but we managed to blag our way in.
The beating heart of Kingswear Castle
I was a bit disappointed to notice that all the tools were metric though.
How's this for a nice bit of kit!  I reckon that we should get one of these fitted in the cabs of each of our locos.  The guard could set this for us rather than wave a green flag.
Full steam ahead
Our paddle along the river Dart coincided with Dinmore Manor pulling out of Kingswear station which proceeded to race us, needless to say 7820 won the day
Dinmore Manor heads back to Paignton
Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle as we took the ferry back to Kingswear
These kind of turn outs always seem to end up with a group photo of the usual suspects.  This one was no exception.
The usual suspects and the Devon Belle.
Dinmore Manor got in on the act too.
The great and the good of DMLL, plus the star of the show herself
On the return journey, crossing 7827, Lydham Manor at Churston.
The mist and drizzle had curtailed the view from the observation carriage in the morning, however the return journey proved to be much clearer
One of the local beaches
Not only does the DSR have a manor not unlike ours, but they also have a 42XX, theirs being 4277, ours being 4270.
4277 at Paignton
4277 sports a historically inaccurate name plate.  I'm not a great fan of it, but if it makes the customers happy and helps to keep them coming and consequently helps to keep the loco running, then it can't be such a bad thing.
Not sanctioned by Churchward
The following day, I was rostered down for another day on the PFP (we do have other locos, honest).  It was to be a driver training turn for Ade, under the tuition of Steve.

If I need a warming fire putting into a loco for the weekend, I usually ask Dan to do it as he lives not too far from the railway.  Dan of course was with me on the DSR, so clearly he wouldn't be able to coiver it.  Many thanks to Roger for coming in on Friday and sorting it out for me. 

We didn't have a cleaner rostered, but James turned up and soon had the PFP sparkling ready for the day's service
James on top of the PFP as the sun rises
The Cotswold Diesel Railcar group have just acquired another DMU car, bringing their fleet up to 6 vehicles, all of which are interoperable.  Before we get messages from the livery police, she won't be staying like this for long.
New (to us anyway) DMU
A few weeks ago, when down for a turn on the PFP, I was unable to track down the hand brush.  Assuming that it had met its demise one way or another, I did the only thing that I could do under the circumstances, which was 'borrow' one from one of the other locos.  Whilst doing the tool check on Saturday, I finally tracked down where the original hand brush was hiding, it was tucked into the narrow gap between the fireman's side tool box and the edge of the cab.  Being pricked by my conscience, I returned 2807's hand brush back to where I had found it a few weeks ago.
Returning to the scene of the crime.
The PFP's hand brush is lurking in there.
The day went well, Ade was having a good day and the PFP was steaming well
Crossing 4270 at Winchcombe
We even had an audience at times
The audience even extended to a line side photographer between Winchcombe station and Greet tunnel.  His idea of hi-viz caused some amusement on the footplate as he had an orange plastic supermarket bag tied round his chest with a piece of string.  Lineside passes, which include a proper orange GWSR hi-viz vest are available for a very reasonable price and can be obtained by following this link.

Breakfast warming up... thanks Steve.
Ade and Steve in the office
The passengers were very friendly, this one engaging me in conversation from the nearest carriage whilst we were on the move
Friendly passenger
James who had cleaned the PFP in the morning joined us for the last round trip. The PFP is crowded with three, so four is definitely a bit cosy.  Being stuck in the middle of the cab next to the fire, far from a cab window can be a little warm to say the least.  I opted to lurk at the side of the cab by the window and let James deal with transferring coal into the firebox and water into the boiler.  It was his first go at it, he didn't do badly.
Ade looks happy, James perhaps a little more apprehensive.
The timetable left us sat at Winchcombe for ten minutes to twiddle our thumbs.  A perfect opportunity to pay a flying visit to the discovery coach sat in the bay platform.  As well as plenty of information on the history of our line, there are also a few models.
Live steam Collett 0-4-2T, 1451
OO gauge Model of Toddington station, featuring Dinmore Manor
Not to be outdone, Foremarke Hall was there in O gauge.
The discovery coach is well worth a visit if you have a free moment to spare at Winchcombe.

More progress has been made with Dinmore Manor's own tender.  It needed to be raised a bit higher in order to get the wheels underneath it sometime in the next few weeks.  A number of people were involved in that, but only Mike & Mark remained by the time that I had finished disposing the PFP.
Mike (L) and Mark with the elevated tender frames.
The news that 35006 had made her first moves under her own steam in preservation  on Monday August 10th has generated some interest in the press.  Toby Jennings, assistant editor of Steam Railway magazine, turned up to interview Andy about progress.
Toby (L) and Andy, posing with the wrong loco, but never mind.
On Saturday morning, John had bemoaned the fact that of the 25 nice new white mugs that he had bought for the mess coach at the time of the gala, only 9 now remained.  My suspicion is that the washing up fairy has been a little clumsy of late.  Regardless, mugs now need to be signed in and out.  It remains to be seen how effective this measure will turn out to be.
Sign out sheet for mugs.
And finally, in what will almost certainly turn out to be a career limiting move, I present an undated, yet clearly not recent photograph courtesy of John Longhurst.  The two gentlemen featured have both appeared on this blog in the past, in fact one of them as recently as last week.  I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to identify them.
Would you buy a used steam loco from these men?
At John's best guess, the loco was 6106 and the era was sometime in the 1990's.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Collateral Damage

After what was purportedly a whole month's worth of rain delivered in a two day period, Saturday was a blessed relief, without the slightest hint of precipitation.  Hopefully the rains had arrived late enough in the week for this new patch of concrete outside the David Page shed to have cured after being poured on Monday.
Building up the apron outside the David Page shed
 This newly poured section between roads 8 & 9 was of course indoors and was spared from the deluge at the tail end of last week.
New concrete inside the shed
My task for the day was to fire dear old 5542, The Planet's Favourite Prairie (PFP) in the company of Sean as my driver and Aaron as cleaner.
Sean oiling up 5542
Aaron started at the top and cleaned his way down.
Somewhere in the darkest recesses of Dan's Facebook page, there is a photo of Sean and myself peering out of the cab of the 8F two years ago when he was a trainee driver and I was a trainee fireman which Dan had entitled "A Future Crew?".   On Saturday, Dan's question was answered, Sean and I were indeed a crew, motley perhaps, but a crew nonetheless.  
Two years ago.  Photo courtesy of Dan Wigg
One of the wheel barrows had come to grief during the week, its solitary wheel having acquired a puncture.
Ade having just removed the punctured tyre
John fits a replacement, Ben supervises
 A little while later, John was back inside the David Page shed working on more of the shuttering for the concreting of the David Page shed, here he is welding up some angle iron to seperate the inner edge of the track from the concrete.
John welding
 The steel reinforcing for the concrete needs to be tied to spacing sections to give it structure.  Ade cracks on with that on the section in road 7.
Ade at work
Eleanor was doing the same further along road 7
The PFP had just been through a wash out and Ian, our Pressure Vessel Responsible Person wanted to check her over at varying pressures, 20 PSI, 100 PSI and when she was blowing off to make sure that everything was still OK.  This is a poor fireman's get out of jail free card, being instructed to make the loco blow off before going off shed.  Not being  a complete idiot, I let her blow for a few minutes to get myself back a bit of water space in the boiler before finally running an injector.
Officially blowing off.
The PFP had been left with not as much coal in the bunker as might have been desired and the decision was taken to give it an extra bucket load.  Ordinarily the driver would be expected to operate the fork lift truck to do this, however Sean declared that when coaling up, he was "About as accurate as the American Air Force on a bombing raid" and asked Ade to do it for him.  I would very much like to distance myself from Sean's comment and even more importantly, distance myself from Sean should the American Air Force send in a retaliatory strike.  I spent the day anxiously scanning the skies for B52s and stealth drones, but mercifully none were to be seen.
Ade topping up the PFP's bunker.
Even with Ade at the controls of the fork lift truck, there was a certain amount of collateral damage.
Oops, missed!
 I was booked onto train two on the red timetable, a late start, early finish and a long break in the middle, if only the day job had such civilised hours.
Must be 10:00,  4270 running as train 1 is setting off in the background
 We didn't need to set off until ten past eleven
Sean gets us under way
The view from the office window
 The cab of 5542 was really meant for two people, three is a bit of a crowd.  If you're the third person in there, then you're going to end up doing things otherwise you'll be in the way of somebody who needs to be where you're stood.
Aaron ended up on token management duties.
As seems to have become the norm, we were delayed setting off on the return journey from Cheltenham, we were ready to go on time, but we didn't get the green flag for another 8 minutes.  Sean was complimentary about that fact that I managed to keep the PFP from blowing off during the delay.  Compliments from any quarter are few and far between, I've logged it in my diary.
Waiting for the green flag
Before we set off from Cheltenham, we noticed somebody loitering around in the 4' up by the section signal.  We approached with caution, intending to give them some grief when we got there, only to find that it was Bill, who was about to undertake some routine maintenance of the signal.  His hi-viz vest hadn't been quite as highly visible as it might have been.
Bill in his not so highly visible hi-viz.
 Speaking of Bill, he emailed me a photo of him moonlighting on the Talyllin Railway during their recent Alice in Wonderland themed gala.
Bill (with the tea) on Duncan, photo with kind permission of Barbara Fuller
 As far as I can make out, the hardest part of driving a steam loco is getting them to stop in the right place.  Sean's stopping was excellent throughout the day, with just one exception at Gotherington where he stopped a bit short.  Sean complained, with some justification that this was the only occasion that I chose to take a photograph and not on any of the others.
The end of the 1st coach is supposed to be at this end of the white line
Crossing 4270 at Winchcombe
 It was on the approach to Winchcombe that we encountered a problem.  The front damper has a couple of notches in the control to admit air under the grate.  When in the fully opened position, the damper can be a tad tricky to close again, a subtle blend of psychology and extreme physical force is sometimes required.  On this occasion, full use of all the brute force and ignorance that I could muster proved to be inadequate and the damper remained stubbornly open.
The recalcitrant damper on the left
 We stopped for water and then nipped onto the ash pit during the run round for running repairs.  Before I could even get down from the cab, Dan had nipped underneath the PFP and nudged the right bit of the damper mechanism with a broom, the damper dropped and we were able to continue on our way.  It was all over and done with so quickly that I didn't even get a chance for a photo.
Sean operating the water just before we headed over to the pit.
I gave Aaron the chance to fire the second trip and made sure that nobody was about on the platform at Toddington as he damped down the coal in the bunker with the pep pipe.
Aaron damps down the coal
Either I proved to be too tempting a target or Aaron's aim was as bad as Sean's.
Wet trousers!
I was beginning to regret my decision to give him a go at firing.

The field on the Cotswold side of the line between Winchcombe station and Greet tunnel had recently been mown and the hay stacked as close to the line as possible.  I don't think that the farmer had thought this one through.
Line side fire waiting to happen.
Aaron made a good job of firing down to Cheltenham, but managed to add just one or two more lumps of coal than was strictly necessary. 
Aaron hides his face behind his cap whilst the safety valves tell their own story.
There are just one or two members of the Steam Loco Dept who are not above playing the odd practical joke.  I don't usually report their activities here, but people being sent to look for tins of tartan paint or cans of elbow grease are not exactly unheard of.  I won't name the guilty party or the victim here (suffice it to say that I was neither, so it shouldn't be too hard to work out), but the token arrived on the footplate with a liberal coating of grease on the hoop.
Just as well it wipes off easily enough.
The return journey was a much better affair by Aaron, with plenty of pressure and water in the glass, yet no blowing off, and everything was in good order when we arrived at Toddington for disposal and then to hand over to the evening crew on a fish and chip special.
Aaron, no problems at all on the way back
During the final top up of water before disposal, Sean suddenly got camera shy, that's him hiding behind the water column.
Must have been starting to feel guilty by now
Aaron got out his camera and took his revenge
You can run, but you can't hide!
As we pulled up adjacent to the mess coach on our way to the pit we were met by the cheery smile from Mike who asked us if we'd like tea.   Mike will go far.
Service with a smile
Disposal was accompanied by a running commentary from the GWSR heckling team locomotive disposal advisory panel.
David H, David F & Nigel
Nigel is modelling this year's must have item of fashionable railway apparel, an Italian designer label hi-viz t-shirt.  We'll have to get one for Bill.  I wonder if David H will be stocking them in the Toddington station shop?

The two Davids and Mike had been working on Dinmore Manor's tender:
I believe that this is part of the brake actuating mechanism...
...more painting had occurred...
... and half the horn guide ties appeared to be complete.
Speaking of Dinmore Manor, Phil has been holidaying in Paignton with his family this week and has kindly provided a few photos of Dinmore Manor at work on the DSR.
Dinmore Manor passing the beach huts at Goodrington
Same location a bit later in the day.
Both the above photos courtesy of Phil Grange.  Phil hopes to get time off for good behaviour later in the week and take a ride along the line.

And finally, photos of last week's momentous event, the first steaming of 35006 in preservation broke late in the day, pictures only arriving in my email folder minutes before I had been about to hit the publish button on the blog.  Since then, a variety of videos have surfaced on Youtube, so should you be interested, here are a couple.

First Clip

Second Clip

I have also received a DVD from Steve Parker containing a number of video clips of the day, which I have uploaded to Youtube myself.  Here are the links concerned.  Many thanks to Steve for making them available to me.

Clip one

Clip two

Clip three

Clip four

Clip five

Fifty one years since withdrawal by BR, with a fire in her belly and steam in her cylinders (well OK, two out of three ain't bad according to Meatloaf), she finally moved herself again.  A marvellous achievement and a great credit to everybody who has been involved in her restoration over the years.