Thursday, 26 May 2016

And Then There Were Eight

We now have an answer to the question that everybody has been asking.  I am delighted to be able to announce, following an intensive rebuild effort, that has run at a very high pace since the boiler returned from Tyseley a few months ago, that Hawksworth, 4-6-0, Modified Hall, 7903, Foremarke Hall is now passed as ready to join the gala line up.  The gala committee are enormously grateful to John Cruxon and his team for pulling out all the stops to get her ready in time. This gives us a total of eight running locos, in addition to the seven already announced (see previous blog post for details).  

Foremarke Hall has been beautifully turned out in lined BR green, with the late crest on the tender.

7903, Foremarke Hall in steam a couple of days ago.
A significant bonus, is that Foremarke Hall fills in a gap in our "Swindon Built" theme, as we now have locomotives design by each of the last four Chief Mechanical Engineers that have been in charge of Swindon works, Churchard (2807 & 4270), Collett (7812 & 7820), Hawksworth (7903), and in the BR era, Riddles (92214).  We also have the oldest steam locomotive capable of being steamed that was built at Swindon (2807) and the youngest (92214).  46521 is an Ivatt (LMS) design, although built at Swindon and 35006, was designed by Bulleid (the exception to the "Swindon Built" theme).

The availability of eight locos gives us some options to run interesting combinations of double headers.  The plan is to run 7812, Erlestoke Manor double headed at different times with 7820, Dinmore Manor and 7903, Foremarke Hall.  The timetable on the website now has the loco allocations for each day.
Erlestoke Manor pilots Foremarke Hall on a test run earlier today
We appear to have inadvertently come up with a lined BR green gala too, as all three visiting locos (7812, Erlestoke Manor, 46521 & 92214) are in lined green, along with 7903, Foremarke Hall and 35006, Peninsular & Oriental S.N. Co from the home fleet.

I can now reveal that the plan is to run 2807 as 2808 on Saturday 28th May only, to commemorate the record breaking 2012 ton train hauled by 2808 in 1906.  On the other two days, she will run as herself, 2807.
Heavyweight champion
 For further details of what is shaping up to be an extremely impressive event can be found on the GWSR website.

 As a taster of what is to come, I received this photo from Mark Young nearly managing to squeeze in all the assembled locos, with this view taken from the top of the newly erected parachute tank.
The line up
 And finally, a new departure for us is a "Driver for a tenner" taking place at Cheltenham Race Course station each day.  Age limits, 18 - 70 years old, between 10:30 and 14:30 each day, subject to loco availability.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Walking on Water

People have complained to me in recent years that Tina doesn't feature on this blog as much as she used to.  The simple fact of the matter is that our paths cross much less frequently these days.  We are now both firemen (Tina prefers that title to any gender neutral alternative that these politically correct times may try to force upon us) and thus we never get out on the footplate together any more.  Furthermore, Tina is in the process of training to be a DMU driver, which is a path I have chosen not to tread for the foreseeable future.  That is not to say that our paths never cross, and on one of these rare meetings, she informed me that she was in training for a forty mile walk in aid of Action Medical Research, a charity dedicated to improving the health of babies and children.  Forty miles in one twenty four hour period is quite a tall order.  She will be kicking off at midnight on June 11th, which is only a few weeks away.  It won't be a flat forty miles either, it is along the Cotswold Way, starting at Dursley and finishing at the highest point, the top of Cleeve Hill. The early sections of the walk will be completed in the hours of darkness.  Please encourage her in supporting this extremely worthwhile charity. You can sponsor her by clicking on this link and having your credit card details handy.  She will be walking with a group of colleagues from her workplace.

Tina went on a practice walk with James (a colleague who will be joining her on June 11th) and a few members of the steam loco dept along the Wye valley for a distance of less than twenty miles on Sunday. 
(l-r), James, Ade, Tina & Eleanor, Tintern Abbey is the scenic back drop.
 Back to the activities of the steam loco dept; Saturday saw a small number in attendance, the multitude were presumably saving their energy for the Cotswold Festival of Steam,  "Swindon Built" gala, which no doubt you will know by now kicks off for three days, commencing on Saturday 28th.  

A small team of people commissioned the parachute tank in the yard, a pump having been obtained to assist getting water from the tank behind platform 2:
Tim gives the chain a tug and water flows.

 Taking on water before leaving shed if necessary has always been a bit of a pain. It has traditionally involved shunting the stock in the platforms back out of the way far enough for the loco to reach one of the water cranes, or holding on until Cheltenham and refilling there.  The current pipe work is only temporary and will be replaced by a larger bore version in the not too distant future, but at least we'll be in a position to top up the locos before they leave shed in the morning over the gala.  Being able to top up from this water crane in the yard will make our lives a lot easier, many thanks to the gallant team of people who have made it happen.

The foundations for the container stack were receiving another pour of concrete on Saturday as well, in spite of the rain. 
Photo courtesy of Mark Harding
The Dinmore Manor Locomotive LTD group were mostly to be found at Sir William McAlpine's residence at Fawley.  The next two photos courtesy of Martin Ginger.
DMLL & 2874 Trust stand at Fawley
 Sir William McAlpine is a patron of the 2874 trust and was presented with a replica cabside number plate.
Sir William McAlpine
 I understand that a good time was had by all, in spite of the weather which was reminiscent of the Glastonbury festival at times.

Other members of of DMLL were present at Toddington and working on the new tender.  A fact that is perhaps not too widely known is that there is a layer of wood required between the tender frames and the tank to support the weight of the tank when full of water & coal.  To that end, the tender tank was raised by a couple of inches at each end to allow for the insertion of the wood.
Mark (r) raises the tank, Ian (l) reported that the earth moved for him.
The wood awaiting insertion between the tank & frames
 There was a fair bit of painting going on as well, I painted my face black as well as any hitherto missed spots underneath the tender, whilst Seb painted a few more of the tender's pipes.
Seb, paintbrush in hand.
Seb is to be congratulated on passing his driving (car, not steam loco) test, which will enhance his ability to make his way from rural Somerset to darkest Gloucestershire.  I understand that next Monday, he will be bringing a group of friends up from the West Somerset Railway to visit the gala.

That of course leads me nicely into the details of the gala.  The gala itself can be likened to a swan, gracefully gliding effortlessly across the water, yet look beneath the surface and the feet are paddling furiously.  Behind the scenes, all departments of the railway have been pulling together to make sure that the whole event goes off as well as it possibly can.  I can't possibly mention all the people involved, there are simply far too many of them and I would run the embarrassing risk of leaving some of them out.  On behalf of the gala committee, I would like to thank everybody who has, or will be contributing in any way.

From the locomotive point of view, it will be an intensive timetable over all three days of the gala (28th - 30th May) celebrating the 175 years since the founding of Swindon works by the Great Western Railway.  The gala will feature the following locos, starting with the visitors and in numerical order (all the usual caveats about locomotive availability apply):

Collett, 4-6-0, Manor class, 7812, Erlestoke Manor 

Appearing by kind permission of the Severn Valley Railway and the Erlestoke Manor Fund.  Erlestoke Manor will complement our own resident Dinmore Manor, being one of the GWR built batch and Dinmore being from the later BR built batch.  As of early this afternoon (Monday 23rd), her tender had reached Strensham services and the loco wasn't far behind.  Hopefully by the time that you read this, she will be safely on our unloading road, reunited with her tender and being prepared for the gala.
7812, Erlestoke Manor at Bridgnorth on the Severn Valley Railway.

 Ivatt, 2-6-0, 2MT, 46521

Appearing by kind permission of the Great Central Railway.  She has very recently been turned out in lined BR green for the first time in many years.
Ivatt 2MT, 46521

 BR Standard 9F, 2-10-0, 92214 

This is the youngest Swindon built steam locomotive currently capable of being steamed.  92214 appears by kind permission of the Great Central Railway.  It is hoped that one of our firemen, Chris Smith, who remembers firing 92214 when based at Bath Green Park during his career as a BR fireman will be reunited with it at some point during the gala.
BR Standard, 9F, 92214
Moving on to the home fleet, again in ascending numerical order:

Churchward, 2-8-0, 2807

Entering traffic in 1905, she is the oldest steam locomotive built at Swindon currently capable of being steamed. At a number of points during the gala, it is anticipated that she will be renumbered to 2808. The reason for this is that on 26th February 1906, identical sister locomotive No. 2808 hauled a record-breaking train from Swindon to Acton. The trainload of coal was made up of 20 twenty ton, 6 twelve ton, 78 ten ton, 2 nine ton and 1 eight ton capacity coal wagons. Assembled at Swindon, the whole train totalled 2012 tons, including the dynamometer car and brake van. This record by a production locomotive stood during the whole steam era, surpassed only by the one-off prototype G.W.R. locomotive The Great Bear which hauled 2375 tons in 1909.
Churchward, 2-8-0, 2807

Churchward, 2-8-0T, 4270 

Like 2807 and 92214, 4270 was intended primarily for freight traffic when built.  Once again this year, brake van rides costing an additional £10 for the round trip, Toddington to Cheltenham Race Course and back will be available on the day. 
Churchward, 2-8-0T, 4270 in action with a demonstration freight train

Collett, 4-6-0, Manor class, 7820, Dinmore Manor

Footplate rides are available on some of our home fleet locos such as Dinmore Manor, but at the last information I had, only a few spaces were still available, and then only for Monday 30th.  If you fancy a footplate ride, best be quick.  Please note there is a slight error when following the booking link above, it should read "Monday 30th May", not the 25th.
Collett, 4-6-0, 7820, Dinmore Manor

Bulleid Pacific, Merchant Navy Class, 35006, Peninsular & Oriental S.N. Co

35006 will be making her first public revenue earning trips in over fifty years, which is quite an event in its own right.   Furthermore, 35006 and 92214 will top and tail a 14 coach special train on the evening of Saturday 28th May for a full round trip of the line.  35006 is of course the exception to the "Swindon Built" theme for this year's Cotswold festival of Steam gala.
35006 approaching three arch bridge on a recent loaded test run, photo courtesy of Jason Houlders.
There is one question that everybody is asking.  The answer is simply that we really don't know, but everything possible is being done to make it happen.  There is still time for an announcement before the gala kicks off.  Watch this space.  I will bring updates as and when I can. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Peninsular & Oriental S.N. Co Renamed

Saturday saw a bright and early start for me at Toddington on Saturday.  4270 was booked as my steed for the day.  Apart from one trip a couple of weeks ago, this was the first time that I had been out on 4270 in a year, so it was very nice to reacquaint myself with her again.  The crew were Chris (trainee driver) under the tutelage of Andy, with James as our cleaner.
Chris filling the hydrostatic lubricator
There was a bit of a failure on 4270, one of the lamps had lost its door:
 The other lamps were either in use, or down at C&W for a bit of touch up painting, so the time honoured solution of nicking one from another loco wasn't going to work on this occasion.  Plan B was to light the lamp, then tie a couple of pieces of string around it to prevent the door coming adrift in service.
How could that possibly fail?
 I'm pleased to report that the bodge repair lasted for the day.
That surprised you didn't it!.
 Before I set off on 4270 for the day's work, I had a look around to see what was happening.  Dinmore Manor had been taken out of traffic for a few days to allow for repairs to its ash pan.
Ian welding in the new ash pan door plate
The new plate and door in place
 Work was continuing on 3850's boiler, the removal of the last vestiges of insulating material and needle gunning the rust off. 
Sam needle gunning in the morning
 I understand Sam went on to help with Dinmore Manor's ash pan later on, the rest of the work on the boiler being undertaken by Rob, Steve & Kenneth.
Rob, Steve & Kenneth at the end of the day.
 4270 was running as train 2, with 2807 down as train 1.  2807 set off at 10:00 with the first service of the day as usual:
2807 is in there somewhere
She was being a bit camera shy
That's better.
 There was much civil engineering work being undertaken too.   The relocated toilet blocks were being plumbed in.   An email received yesterday informed me that they are once again back in use.  This is good news, as it's a fairly long walk up to the conveniences in the car park.
Plumbing being installed
Mechanical assistance was employed
At a point in the yard, the other side of the running line from the signal box, we now have pipe work for the water column in the yard, and foundations for a stack of containers.
Foundations and water pipe run
 Up by the water column itself, Neil was keen to point out some of the new plumbing up there.  The pipe in the bottom right hand corner is for the water column, the one above that for a hydrant and the one going to the left will eventually supply water to the narrow gauge railway.The one towards the bottom of the picture is the feed from the water tank on platform 2.  Apparently a pump wil be required to maintain the water pressure.

 The day itself was a very pleasant sunny day.  I was most pleased that 4270 now has a fully functioning pep pipe (apart from a turn a couple of weeks ago, this was my first turn on 4270 in a year).  The ability to damp down the coal to inhibit coal dust was a very useful feature on such a hot dry day.
Platform two at CRC was being tended to in full sunshine
A passenger celebrating his 60th birthday visited the footplate
 It was so sunny that Bill even rolled his sleeves up to exchange tokens at Winchcombe
Bill, risking sun burnt arms
Chris drives, Andy watches
A very pleasant surprise was Anthony joined us at the end of the day to help out with disposal.  He'll go far!
James damping down the ash...
...Anthony raking it out.
 The photo below was of us returning along siding 1 to get back to the yard, whilst 2807 returns from its final run.  Of note is the blue pipe temporarily laid under the tracks, which it is hoped will deliver water to the water column in the yard for the gala.
Temporary blue water pipe
 It had been 2 years since Cliff had passed out as a driver, and Saturday was his biennial inspection (on 2807).  He had obtained a new set of blues for the occasion.
Cliff shows off his new attire
Needless to say, Cliff passed again.

The big news of course, involves our biggest loco.  On Monday (16th), 35006 was officially renamed as "Peninsular & Oriental S.N. Co".   The name plates were already on it in anticipation of the renaming when I arrived on Saturday:
35006, with her name plates fitted
 By the time that I returned to shed on Saturday afternoon, some thing had changed.
That doesn't look quite right...
...aha, the nameplates were now concealed behind brown paper.
 Something else new was that the late BR crest had been applied to the tender.
Ferret & Dartboard
Something else was afoot... well underfoot to be more precise, strips of cardboard had been taped to the footplate steps, to prevent mucky boots befouling them.
Cleanliness is next to impossible on a steam loco
Being a humble wage slave, and needing to save my holiday for the impending gala, I couldn't be there on Monday for the renaming ceremony.  The following selection of photos of the event itself were forwarded to me by Steve Parker:
Pete Waterman (GWSR President) with GWSR PLC Chairman, Alan Bielby
The formation of carriages for the event was not our usual rake of seven BR mk1's, instead it was strengthened to twelve.
Ian (l) & Ben, preparing the extra stock for coupling up
The driver for the day was Ian, the fireman, Dan, appears to have eluded Steve's camera
 Shareholders and volunteers in 35006, Peninsular & Oriental S.N. Co were invited.
The assembled throng of shareholders and volunteers
The naming ceremony was performed by Pete Waterman
Curtain withdrawn
 An interesting feature was the presence of David Brown, an ex-BR fireman who fired 35006 in the last week prior to its withdrawal.
David Brown(r) in the cab of 35006 with Pete Waterman
The newly unveiled name plate
An interesting view of the twelve carriage train from the last coach
 Many other people took photos of the occasion, including the following one by Dan Wigg...
Soon to depart Cheltenham Race Course
...and a similar view from the other side by James Edwards:

 If 12 coaches isn't enough for you, the next time 35006 runs will be for the three days of the "Swindon Built" gala on May 28th - 30th (yes, I know, 35006 is the exception) and on the Saturday evening of the gala, she will be hauling a 14 coach train, top and tailed with visiting BR standard 9F, 92214 (courtesy of the Great Central Railway). Unmissable!