Monday, 4 July 2016


Passing out as a fireman isn't like passing your car driving test.  For a car driving licence, you pass your test sometime after the age of 17, and that is that, you have the licence until you are 70.  Once you are past 70, retaining it is only a case of passing a medical.  Bad habits can creep into your driving over time and years later, you may not be as safe as the day that you passed your test.  For a fireman, you don't just pass the once and that is it, you have to be reassessed every two years.  The medicals are more frequent than for a car driving licence too.  I say all this, as it is now 2 years since I passed out, and my biennial reassessment as a fireman was due.  I had received an email from Chris during the week, that as we were rostered to crew 35006 on Saturday, he would reassess me then.

Unfortunately my allocated loco for Saturday, 35006 wasn't in use the day before, so I had to go to Toddington to put in a warming fire in preparation on Friday.  The tender was rather low on coal, and the water was higher than I wanted it to be.  I bumped into Andy of the owning group, who was present on Friday to check out some work that had taken place on the tender brakes.  He was keen that the boiler should be drained out through the blow down valve to the point that there was only half a glass of water left...  I needed no second bidding.  According to the instruction manual for 35006, a warming fire should be lit on the back of the grate, so that is what I did.  As I was about to leave when I had finished the job, Ian asked how many shovels full of coal I had used, fifty being the preferred amount.  That useful piece of information was missing from the instruction manual that had been issued to crews, and in its absence I had not bothered counting, but kept building the fire up until the point where I couldn't hold the back of my hand against the washout plug above the firehole door.  The evidence of the following day was that I had probably used a few more than fifty shovels full of coal.

Saturday morning dawned bright and early, and I set to raising steam on my nice warm loco.  The quantity of coal in the tender was by now pitifully low, just about enough to cover the grate without having to resort to using any of the slack.  Once the fire was lit, I tried sprinkling some of the slack around the grate to keep it going, but that just introduced a large dead spot in the centre of the fire.  In desperation, I sent the cleaner (Donna) off to fetch a wheel barrow load of coal, Paul (cleaner on Foremarke Hall) kindly fetched a second wheel barrow load a little later.
Driver/Inspector, Chris, oils up 35006.  Emergency wheel barrow load of coal in the foreground
One of the yard hosepipes appears to have come to grief at some point recently
Andy (from the 35006 group) and Donna (cleaner) on the way back on the first trip
There was a perceived issue with pulling the brakes off of one of the carriages, which had delayed our first departure from Toddington, on the return trip, we paused for a while at Winchcombe for some members of the Carriage and Wagon dept to investigate.  I'm afraid that I don't know what fault (if any) was found and at the time of writing, there is no further information on the C&W blog.
C&W inspect the vac connections between carriages
 A bit of an issue during the day, was that although I had asked for three buckets full of coal to be put in the tender at the start of the day, only two ended up being put on.  The coal in the tender was down to a worryingly low level before we set off for the third trip.  I mentioned my concerns to Chris, and we agreed that between us, we'd both make & use steam frugally.  In the end, we got there and back ok, but it wasn't until we'd got as far back as Winchcombe with decent pressure and water levels that I felt that I was able to relax.  There was even a few shovels full of slack to spare in the bottom of the tender when we eventually got back to Toddington.  

The trick with firing slack, is that it's best to get it damp, then get it along the sides of the firebox, leaving the lumps of coal to go in the middle of the grate.  That's all well and good in theory, but as 35006 didn't have a working pep pipe, or tender spray, it was difficult to put into practice, most of the slack ended being burnt up above the firebed, to little useful effect.  The good news is that as soon as we arrived back on shed, Andy & Steve appeared with the relevant items to complete the installation of the pep pipe.  Sunday's crew should have had the benefit of nicely damped down coal and a nice clean cab floor.
Chris seemed to be fairly happy with the way it all went in the end.
Checking inside the smoke box at the end of the day, all ok in here.
During disposal, Chris loads up three buckets worth of coal of the benefit of the Sunday crew
 I noted that the hose pipe in the ash pit now has an angled attachment on the end, which makes it a lot easier to damp down the ash in the middle hopper of 35006.
Pit hose pipe with a sharp bend attachment on it
Once safely back on shed, I noticed that the unloading road (road 5) has been the subject of much work by the Permanent Way gang, it's looking far better than it did before.
Road 5

Following on from the recent lifting of the boiler from the frames, more work has continued on the rebuild of 3850, the following four pictures came my way courtesy of Mike Solloway:

Removal of the vacuum pump
Removal of the front buffers
Extraction of the left hand valve...
...and the right hand one.

And finally, photos on this blog of me are a scarce commodity, which is exactly how I like it.  I bumped into Nick at Cheltenham Race Course during the day on Saturday, who in times past was a cleaner on the GWSR before moving away.  Nick posted this on a well known social media website over the weekend, and I'll make a rare exception for this.
Yours truly having worked out which end of the shovel to hold (photo courtesy of Nick Frechter)
Yes, I haven't mastered the art of firing from the wrong side of the cab yet, and I didn't think that my biennial reassessment was a good time to start trying.  Fortunately, which side of the cab you stand on doesn't form part of the reassessment, so somehow or other, I hoodwinked Chris into signing me off for another 2 years. 

1 comment:

  1. "C&W inspect the vac connections between carriages."

    As the carriage had been recently included, as a replacement, into the Rake, there may have been a 'seating' problem with the Vac seals. However, with usage, these appeared to have self-aligned and no action was necessary.

    Congratulations on photographing me from my 'better' profile!