Monday, 18 July 2016

Pokemon Perils

Pokemon Go has apparently taken the world by storm... well at least that portion of the world that is under 25 years of age (yes, I'm only 21, but mercifully I'm immune to this kind of stuff).  Ordinarily, this wouldn't merit a mention on the steam loco dept's blog, but I'm advised by one of our younger members that Toddington Railway station is a "Pokestop".  Please don't ask me what that means, as I haven't got clue number one. 
Please, don't ask, I don't know.
I can say though that trying to catch Pokemon on our railway may well turn out to be very dangerous, caution is advised in this as indeed in all matters when visiting a heritage railway.  Anything that distracts your attention, possibly causing you to step off the edge of a platform or stray onto the tracks etc won't end well.  Issues regarding Pokemon and children trying to catch them on the tracks have already occurred on the "big railway".

Reports of the "Trainspotting Live" series of three programmes on BBC 4 led me to try and catch up with it on iPlayer, just to see if was as described by a number of reports that I had seen online.  In the process, I stumbled upon this article in the online Radio Times, entitled "The Nine Most Scenic Spots for Trainspotting in the UK".  Setting aside the issue of why 9 spots instead of 10, I mention this here, because Toddington came in at number 9 on the list.  The choice of locations, is always going to be subjective, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and all that, but it was gratifying that we appeared on the list.  Just in case you couldn't be bothered to follow the link above, this is the complete list:

1) The Bluebell Railway
2) Glenfinnan Viaduct
3) Whitby North Yorkshire
4) North York Moors National Park
5) Porthmadog, North Wales
6) Llangollen Railway, North Wales
7) Exmoor National Park
8) Bath
9) Toddington, Gloucestershire

A few observations that I'd make would be that the majority are heritage railways (or in the case of number 3, a network rail line over which a heritage railway has running rights) rather than part of the national network.  Heritage railways suffer a disadvantage for the average trainspotter in as much as they (galas and occasional incoming mainline rail tours excepted) largely tend to run locos from the same small pool each week, so you'd pretty quickly spot them all. From the ticking off of numbers in a book point of view, not ideal.  If you did follow the link, all nine photos used (even the network rail locations) show a steam loco at work, except the photo of Toddington where you get to see our class 73 electro diesel very much in the background. This in spite of the fact that we are the only one with "steam" in our name.

 I'm curious as to why just Toddington and not the whole line, Winchcombe station is rather beautiful in my view, and yes, although the GWSR doesn't own it, Gotherngton is a gem as well.  The fact that the line is largely built on embankments and offers fine views of the Cotswold hills and in the distance the Malverns should not be overlooked either.  I have no doubt that Broadway when it is completed will considerably enhance the beauty of the line as a whole.  There are plenty of scenic locations on the West Coast Mainline (Scout Green, Beattock) or East Coast Mainline (Berwick Viaduct), but these are rather spoiled in my humble opinion by the overhead wires (call me a luddite if you will), a fate that is shortly to befall Sydney Gardens in Bath. Who knows, next time the Radio Times prepares such a list, that  fact may just propel Toddington up to number 8.... Broadway when completed may change the entry from "Toddington" to the "GWSR" and push it higher still.   

I have already said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it has to be said that for this beholder at least, the Settle & Carlisle line, (Ribblehead Viaduct, Ais Gill & Arten Gill Viaduct are all delights), and the Dawlish - Teignmouth sea wall section of line in Devon is a magical place to visit. There omission is to me at least unaccountable. I'm sure that you will have a few favourites of your own as well. Chacun à son goût.

 Whilst we're on the subect of Toddington, I ventured up there on both Saturday and Sunday this weekend:
Foremarke Hall heads off with the first train of the day on Saturday
 More progress has been made with 3850's boiler, the regulator rod has now been removed.
3850's regulator rod, extricated from the boiler
 There will be a few more containers arriving in the near future, one of which will be placed adjacent to the yard entrance.  A number of items needed to be removed to make way for it, including 2874's cab.
It's a bit like musical chairs
 The drop grate of 3850 required the finger bars removing, ten years inside the firebox had not left them in a state where they could be easily removed.
Eleanor & Sam encouraging the fingers to come off the actuating arm
 The easiest solution to storing a number of the items that were in the way of the new container, was to stash them on top of some of the existing containers.

David prepares to receive a superheater element
 Shifting 2874's cab roof was straight forward enough, with the employment of mechanical assistance.
Mark lifts the cab, David and Martin are grateful that it doesn't have to be shifted the hard way
It didn't end up going too far... was soon joined by 3850's cab roof too.
Trevor has been with the GWSR, man & boy for 15 years, John (head of department) handed over his long service certificate
Trevor (l) and John
 More progress has been noted on the concreting of road 6 in the shed, with sleepers now laid in place.
Road 6, soon to get a concrete floor.
The GWSR has quite a family of blogs these days, and I'm sure that you'll be well aware of the one that covers the recreation of Broadway station.  The Steam Loco Dept has a hand in that process, as Ian and a small team of people are busy creating the steel work that will hold up the roof canopy.  
Roof support
Can't wait to see it finished and assembled at Broadway

I spent Saturday afternoon out at Dinmore Manor LTD's private site, trying to catalogue the whereabouts and condition of the kit of parts that are being refurbished to bolt back onto 3850... when the time comes to stop taking bits off and start putting them back on again.  It was described to me as being like a very large jigsaw puzzle, for which you don't have the picture on the box.  A long list of photos of the pieces of that jigsaw puzzle is likely to have the same effect as the "Trainspotting Live" tv series broadcast last week, so I'll skip those.  Instead, I'll wheel out a few photos of what might be classed as a fuzzy picture on the box, this being 3845 which is patiently waiting her turn in the restoration queue.
3845, still in ex-Barry Island Scrapyard condition... least she still has a tender.
 Thank you to John, Ralph, Richard & Rob for keeping me topped up with tea and pointing out where the parts could be found.

Well that was Saturday, moving on to Sunday, I had a firing turn on 7903, Foremarke Hall.  As you may have noticed from my last blog post, I was out on Foremarke Hall last Monday for the first time since she came back into service after her heavy general overhaul.  Unfortunately the turn only involved going as far as Winchcombe and back, this time round it would be for the usual full timetable.

Phil was on his best behaviour, he had even gone to the trouble of fetching out Foremarke Hall's lamps for me.  Why should Phil be so keen?  Well Sunday was the day that Phil was to be assessed as a driver.
Lamps, ready for action.
 2807 was the other loco running on Sunday, as usual, the loco prep stopped for tea:

(l-r), Eleanor, George, Phil, Dave & Tina, trying to hide behind the step ladder
 Fires were lit, locos cleaned & lubricated, the sun even put in an appearance
Eleanor cleans 7903's boiler barrel
7903 & 2807, preparing for action
Phil with the big red handle...
...setting off from shed
 Soon enough we were out on the road and fulfilling the requirements of the red timetable as train one.
Inspector Irving, keeping a close eye on Phil
 No drama at all, the timetable was fairly closely adhered to, the stops were all pretty much on the right point, the only thing out of the ordinary was that for some unexplained reason, one of our passengers wanted to photograph a teddy bear by 7903's namepleate
Well why not?

Crossing 2807 at Winchcombe
 Fireman Brooks was travelling on the trains for a change, instead of shovelling coal to earn his passage.  Seen here with Judy, his other half.
Chris & Judy.
 It's not all about starting and stopping the loco safely, keeping to time and whistling in all the right places, the driver has to regularly check over the loco and make sure that all is well:
Topping up the oil
 Unfortunately, I had to disappear off for a meeting after the first 2 round trips (it's not all swanning up and down the line on glamorous locos for the chairman of the gala committee you know).  I informed Phil that his only hope of passing out was if he managed to run down at least 10 pokemon characters on the level crossing at Bishops Cleeve and handed over to Aaron who I had arranged to take over firing the last trip for me.  For the time being, these are our 2 most recently qualified crew members. Aaron having passed out as a fireman last week.  Many thanks Aaron.
Aaron (l) and Phil.
 Needless to say,  Phil was deemed to have reached the high standard required of a driver on the GWSR and passed.
Driver Grange (l) & Inspector Irving (Photo courtesy of Steve Oddy)
 Congratulations Phil on passing out.  

I suspect that Phil must have annoyed the roster clerk, as not only did he get lumbered with me for his exam, but he will also get me as his fireman on his second solo turn as a fully fledged driver in August.

And finally, with grateful thanks to Paul Begg of Action Cam Railways, whilst busy scribbling this blog, I have been keeping one eye on my tv screen, as a rather nice DVD, packed with footage from the recent "Swindon Built" gala arrived in the post this morning.  Shot using a number of the popular "Go Pro" cameras mounted on the hand rails, under the running plate, from the lineside, using a drone and in one case from inside the cab, it shows our railway in a way that you won't have seen before. The footage from the handrail & brake vans going through Greet tunnel is particularly good. It is hoped that copies of this DVD will be available from the shop at Toddington station in the not too distant future.

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