Wednesday, 28 December 2016

And it's Goodbye From Him

You may possibly have read on the Boardroom Blog that passenger numbers for the Santa Specials were up by 13% this season, which is a very pleasing development.  If you rummage around in one of the dustier corners of the GWSR website, where the loco roster appears, you will also find the following:

"The information on this page is kept as up to date as possible. However please remember that the locomotives we operate are old and things can go wrong, and locomotives are replaced. Also it is sometimes necessary to reallocate locomotives for operational reasons at short notice."

You can see where this is going can't you.  Last Wednesday, there was a plea from one of the Dinmore Manor LTD directors looking for volunteers to help change a spring on Dinmore Manor, as one had broken on its tender that day.  On Thursday and Friday, the standby loco, 2807 was put into traffic, to cover for Dinmore Manor.

I arrived on Thursday morning to assist with the spring change.  Unfortunately, Dinmore Manor's spare tender spring had been sent off for refurbishment, so the plan was to remove one from the nearly ready to enter traffic new tender and put that on the currently in use tender.  After doing the important things, signing on and getting a cup of tea, I was about to wander into the yard when I noticed that I wasn't alone in the mess coach:
A red-breasted feathered friend!
Obtaining sharp images of birds is not as easy as you might think, especially when only armed with a cheap and cheerful point and shoot camera.
Not quite!
 After a little perseverance, I was able to obtain a photo or two of our visitor... I trust you'll agree a higher standard of visitor than some of the other GWSR departments have to their premises.  No need for traps on this occasion.  After a little encouragement our visitor left under his (or for all I know, her) own steam via one of the carriage doors.
No wildlife was harmed in the production of this blog!
 Meanwhile, out in the yard, 4270 had just set off for the day's work, and 2807 was still being prepared, a process that involved not only lighting her up, but also borrowing the trimmings from Dinmore Manor.
They have the antlers, but forgot the red nose!
 Once Ian turned up, it transpired that Dinmore Manor had been failed with more than just a spring, apparently the gasket between the steam feed and the injector body on the fireman's side had blown, so that needed changing too.  Another example of the mission creep so often associated with steam locomotive renovation and operation.
The offending gasket, blown out on the right of the picture
 Usually, the most difficult part of many jobs is finding the right tools, unusually in this case, the right size spanners were easily tracked down, and it didn't take too long to remove the section of the injector steam pipe, which is a far simpler way of approaching the task than removing the injector body.
The steam feed pipe removed.
 Once the pipe was off, the mating faces needed to have all vestiges of the old gasket removed
Half the gasket left on the injector body
 I took the pipe off to clean up the flange faces and create new gaskets for each end.
Cleaned up flange.
 The gasket material comes in sheets, you need to cut it to shape and then cut holes for all of the mounting bolts and crucially one in the middle to allow the steam through (no names will be mentioned at this point, purely to protect the guilty).
It would be embarrassing to have forgotten about the hole in the middle
 Once you have your gaskets, "reassembly in the reversal of disassembly" as it says in so many Haynes manuals.  I was pleased to hear that the joint had remained steam tight when Dinmore Manor returned to service on Christmas Eve.

The major task, swapping springs between tenders had already been started by Ian and Dan, a space existing where previously a spring had been on the new tender.
Spring removed
 So far so good, the new one had come off relatively easily, it having only been installed earlier this year.  The broken one on the original tender had been in situ for substantially longer, nobody was quite sure how long, but twenty years seemed likely.  It had certainly become accustomed to being where it was and was more than a little reluctant to be removed.
Dan, removing the rather fiddly split pins
No doubt that it was broken
 The nuts that hold the spring in place are in a rather inaccessible spot and were not going to come undone in a hurry, it was deemed easier to cut through the remainder of the broken spring to improve access
Ian cuts through the spring
 Even with the centre portion of the spring removed, the retaining nuts having dropped down to an accessible location required the application of heat along with a considerable helping of brute force and ignorance before they would undo. 
The broken & now gas-axed spring removed.
 Some little while later, once the retaining nuts had been tapped to clean up the thread and the whole lot put back into place, Dinmore Manor was ready for a warming fire in anticipation of returning to traffic on Christmas Eve.
Job's a good 'un!
The prompt return to service of Dinmore Manor on Christmas Eve was fortuitous, as 2807 was failed on Friday evening with a blowing super heater element.  After working her turn on Friday, she was parked up and left to cool down, so that Ian could attend to her on Christmas Eve and get her ready for service again on Boxing Day.  I note from photos that have appeared on well known social media sites that he succeeded in this and 2807 along with Dinmore Manor were both working on the Boxing Day services.

And finally... and it really is finally, your humble blogger has decided that it is time to hand over the blog to new management.  I have long been aware that the day job has meant that I have been unable to cover the activities of the Wednesday gang anywhere near as much as I would have liked, or since I became an active member of one of the home fleet owning groups, pass on as much information as I would have liked on some of the other home fleet locos.  The hardest part though is that my day job often leaves me with far less time than I need to do the job properly.  Henceforth, this blog will be edited by Donna, who will hopefully be receiving frequent contributions from many members of the Steam Loco Dept, which she will collate into a regular post.  I have no doubt that she will stamp the blog in her own inimitable style and that you will find it to be a vast improvement.  I will continue to provide help/advice from the sidelines when requested and will become one of the contributers for the Dinmore Manor LTD collection of locomotives (7820, 3850 & 2874).  I will also make occasional contributions pertaining to the gala when there is news to be announced on that front.  
Your new editor, Donna, cooking breakfast on Dinmore Manor last week
 Thank you very much for agreeing to take over the blog Donna, and also to those who have agreed to make regular contributions.  I wish you all a happy & steam filled new year.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Dinmore the Red Nosed Manor

I've often mentioned that in the same way that an army marches on its stomach, the steam loco dept marches on tea... well it makes a change from walking on water.  If it marches on anything else other than tea, it would have to be cake & biscuits... we take our healthy eating seriously around here.  John's good lady wife sent him along with a large Christmas cake as a thank you to us for keeping John out from under her feet so often.
John cutting the Christmas cake. Photo courtesy of Chris Blake
The cake arrived on Wednesday, but I am pleased to report that there was still some left for the crews on Saturday morning.  Many thanks Margaret.

I have also received a selection of photos from David Staniforth of the elves at Toddington, a shy bunch who usually run away as soon as a camera appears.  You may have noted that I only managed to catch two of them last week.
Elves running away from a camera
 I don't know whether or not David lured these elusive elves out with the promise of tea and biscuits, but somehow he finally persuaded them to line up for posterity.
There's at least one snowman in there too...
... the one that got away!
Of late, light up teams have been organised to put warming fires into the steam locos on a Friday, so that Saturday's firemen don't have to.  Most weekend firemen are afflicted with day jobs that require them to have their noses to grindstones elsewhere on a Friday, so this departure from previous practice is very welcome.  My day job on Thursday had been to attend the office Christmas party, the Friday was effectively written off as a bad job, nobody was expected to do anything, so I called in to Toddington as it was on my way home and found Chris & Richard (under Chris' instruction) putting in warming fires as advertised.  Being extremely grateful, I fetched them out some tea.
Richard (l) and Chris
Fridays are normally a fairly quiet day, but Ian & Alex were to be found riveting some of the Broadway roof sections
Alex(l) & Ian heating a rivet...
...rivet inserted...
...and pressed.
The roof supports had initially been assembled with nuts & bolts, which were being replaced by rivets
Neatly pressed rivets..
Quite a stack of roof supports already done
2807 is in the shed too receiving attention as part of its winter maintenance programme, I noted that there is a DMU seat nearby and wondered if the owning group had taken the view that there should be more creature comforts for the crew in the cab.
What would Churchward have made of that?
Fans of 2807 may be interested to know that the Christmas Cracker on December 28th & 29th is currently expected to have 2807 and 7820 running... a perfectly confusing combination for the numerically dyslexic!

Foremarke Hall is also well into its winter maintenance period now, I noted that the driver's side con rod and cross head had been removed for some attention.
Cross head & con rod removed
Some work taking place on the clack/safety valves too
There is a starfish ballast wagon in the David Page shed, which is being restored from the wagon equivalent of Barry scrapyard condition.  What was essentially rust on wheels is well on the way to being transformed into as new condition.  Hopefully it will be taking a place in our heritage freight train in the not too distant future.
Starfish, looking much improved
Saturday morning arrived, and as usual at this time of year, the crews clocked on long before the sun came up.  Being on train 2, I arrived at "stupid o'clock", the poor crew of train 1 arrived at "even stupider o'clock".  They already had a good head of steam up by the time that I arrived, and had no shortage of steam at all before leaving shed.
4270, ready for action...
...OK, nearly ready, a top up of water required first.
 Yours truly paid a visit to a garden centre a week or so ago to buy a Christmas tree.  I hadn't intended to purchase anything else, but on my way to the till, I spotted a Manor sized set of antlers and red nose.  I have no idea what you're really supposed to do with them, but I did know of a perfect place for them:
Dinmore the red nosed Manor
 Rudolph famously gets through Santa's Christmas delivery schedule on a diet of carrots and water left out for him by children around the world.  Dinmore Manor too needs water, but probably won't get very far on carrots.  Coal is her preferred delicacy, and good Welsh steam coal at that.  Unfortunately we had precious little more coal in the tender than carrots.
That won't get us to the North Pole!
 The good news is that John turned up and volunteered to use the new telehandler to load coal into the tender, the bad news is that he wanted my credit card details as he has decided that the fireman should pay the coal bill.

Alex, fresh from her day yesterday riveting Broadway station's roof supports, was rostered as cleaner today.
Alex getting busy with the Brasso (other brass cleaning products do exist)...
...the just finished nameplate looked rather splendid as the sunrise reflected off it
 We had quite a good turnout of cleaners, as well as Alex, we had Angela, Tom & Tom all cleaning Dinmore Manor
Tom & Tom applying the finishing touches to Dinmore Manor
4270 setting off, Dinmore Manor awaits her turn
 Once again, Toddington station was alive with various Elves and other mythical creatures
Chris... man or myth?
 As Alex will be going forward for fireman training, it seemed only fair that I should let her have a little experience in coupling and uncoupling the loco to the stock.  "Have you got any tips on how best to do this?" she asked.  "Get somebody else to do it" was my reply.
Alex grappling with the steam heat
 Thursday evening had been the Christmas do at the company that I work for, each place at the table had a naff Santa hat.  I was way too cool to wear one that evening, as were no small number of my colleagues. I did however grab a number of surplus ones to pass on to the crew:
Jamie & Alex getting into the Christmas spirit.
Hayles Abbey Halt is progressing nicely
You can count the line side clearance gang amongst the many unsung heroes of the GWSR, without their sterling efforts, our many miles of line side would soon become an overgrown jungle.  It occurred to Jamie, that it would be an ideal job for somebody with a wood fire at home.  If that sounds like just the job for you, you may wish to apply, I'm sure they'd be delighted to have more helpers.
Line side clearance team in action
Last week, Ben installed some cab lights in Dinmore Manor, I was pleased to note that they were still there and the batteries hadn't gone flat.
Didn't help much in the tunnel though
Apart from a quick stop at Winchcombe to collect a few elves etc, it was a straight through run to Cheltenham Race Course (CRC) to collect the first batch of children to take to see Santa.  Heading back up the line, we crossed 4270 which was taking its first lot of children back to CRC
Crossing 4270 at Gotherington
Not only was Santa and yet more elves waiting for us at Winchcombe the North Pole, but also Donna, on a mission from the Dinmore Manor group to take some publicity photos.
Donna... sitting down on the job
Dinmore Manor at Winchcombe
The timetable leaves a generous layover at Winchcombe, and indeed between the 2 passenger carrying trips at CRC.  It is something of a tradition with crews that given such long breaks, they partake of breakfast cooked on the shovel.  Jamie, Alex & myself all brought enough bacon & sausages each to feed the three of us.
Alex was the designated chef
The first round...
...and the second
 After all that scoffing of food, yours truly decided that he needed a rest, and that it would be best to let Alex use that shovel for what it was really intended for.
She made a good job of getting us down to Cheltenham
The Carriage & Wagon dept's 03 shunter crew more than a little optimistically  challenged us to a race.
No chance, it didn't even have any go faster stripes
It's not everyday that you get waved off by a snowman
Crossing 4270 again at Gotherington
Some of our young patrons took advantage of the steam heating to provide interesting artwork on the carriage windows.
No idea what it's meant to be though
 We hadn't bothered filling up with water on our first visit to Cheltenham, but we did on the second.  A nice treat, was the discovery that the original leather water bag, (which had more holes than a pair of Mrs Claus' finest fishnet stockings) had been replaced by a modern plastic affair.  From a distance, you couldn't really tell that it wasn't leather, but you could tell when using it, as you actually stayed dry, it was also much more flexible and easy to manoeuvre.
A pleasure to use!
This would have been a nightmare with the old hose.
The quote of the day was from one young lad who wondered why I didn't electrocute myself on the rails as I was coupling up... he thought it was like a big electric train set.  

Donna had been kidnapped for the remainder of the day... there's no such thing as a free lunch though, she was press-ganged into taking over as chef.
Second breakfast on the way
The breakfast of champions
Donna taking a picture as we pass 4270 yet again at Winchcombe.
There was a third breakfast when we got back to the North Pole:
Photo courtesy of Donna Ludlow.
You'll note that the beard has slipped to a rather jaunty angle by this time. It was frankly getting to be a nuisance, every time I tried to stick a shovel load of coal onto the grate, it blew up over my eyes, much to the amusement of Jamie, Alex & Donna.  I decided that it was all good practice for the later part of the day when I would have to fire in the dark.

Speaking of firing in the dark, I said precious little on the subject last week, yet the blog post was re-posted on the GWSR Facebook page along with the words:  "It also features an account of firing 'Dinmore Manor' at night for our Carol Service last Saturday"
Firing by night, photo courtesy of Donna Ludlow
Well if you really want to know what firing at night is like, then here goes:

1) You can't see much on the footplate, reaching for the steam valve of an injector or the steam heating handle are hazards for the unwary.
2) Once you've looked into the fire, your night vision is destroyed for a while, it's best to indulge in looking into the fire after you've passed the section signal and before looking out for the next home signal.  Better still, know where you need to fire next, and do that without looking into the fire at all. Some only use one eye to look into the fire.
3) You can't see the coal (well it's black, what did you expect) and you can't see what if anything is on your shovel.  It's all pretty much done by feel.
4) Trimming an injector by ear is all well and good, but we only tend to fire at times when there is steam heat on and on some of our locos that can be quite loud and drown out the sound of the injector.  Shining a torch over the side isn't unheard of.
5) By now, I know pretty much where I am on the line, even in the dark, that hasn't always been the case.
6) Crossings are much more difficult to spot, caution required
7) We pretty much only run after dark in the Christmas season when there are plenty of distracting lights in the towns and villages that can be mistaken for signals.  Fairy lights at stations are also not to be confused with signals from the guard.
8) Coupling/uncoupling with a torch clenched between your teeth makes it difficult to hold a conversation with anybody who might be watching.  Not wildly dissimilar to a visit to the dentist.
9) Many of the above are exacerbated if (as is likely) the gauge frame lamp has blown out.
10) In spite of all of the above, it's actually fun to do, it's a shame that we don't get to do more of it.

By the time that Dinmore Manor had been through disposal and safely tucked up in bed, there was just enough time for me to get to the Corner Cupboard in Winchcombe, which was the venue for the Steam Loco Dept's Christmas dinner (just the thing after only the three breakfasts).  This year, instead of a Christmas jumper competition, there was a Christmas hat competition.
I think Sue's hat won 3rd prize.
Chris shows off the prize his wife won in second place, a calendar
 The first prize in the festering festive hat competition was won by Ben:
A rare photo of the normally camera shy Ben
Many thanks indeed to Tina who organised the Christmas dinner & quiz.
Tina, in Ben's prize winning hat. Photo courtesy of Neil Carr