Monday, 25 September 2017

Elephants & Steam

It is with great sadness that I learned this week of the passing away of David Shepherd, the well known artist.  As you are probably aware, he bought two steam locomotives direct from British Rail in the late 1960's, and for some years, one of them, BR standard 9F, 92203, Black Prince, was based on the GWSR.  His artwork reflected his passion for both wildlife and steam locomotives and he will be remembered for his immense contribution in both of those arenas.

An interesting obituary can be found by clicking on this link to the BBC radio "Last Word" programme.
David Shepherd (By NotFromUtrecht - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Black Prince approaching Greet tunnel

I was present on Thursday and as the booked cleaner had had to drop out at short notice, I demoted myself for the morning and lent a hand getting Foremarke Hall ready for the day's duties.  All wasn't entirely well with Formarke Hall's grate, one of the firebars was in a very sorry state, John (the driver on Thursday) went into the firebox to swap it out.
Seen better days
 I was a little disappointed to find (not for the first time) that a previous crew had emptied out a smokebox and left the ash in a wheelbarrow by the pits, rather than take it round to the ash dock.
The wheelbarrow of shame!
 Yes, I did empty it and the bin full from Foremarke Hall too.
Foremarke Hall, off on her way
 Newly arrived, and in need of preparation for the weekend, was a certain "really useful engine".  John spent the morning doing a mechanical FTR examine on it, before he and Alex got on with cleaning it.  They also put in a warming fire in readiness for a steam test on Friday.
Alex (l) and John being "really useful"
 I noted that the Wednesday gang had made some progress with the concreting of the final section of road 6 in the shed, a line of sleepers had appeared in the right place:
Progress in the shed
My task for the day was to help get the underside of Dinmore Manor's old tender ready for re-wheeling.  I was assisted by Roger.  We were no fools, we were in the nice dry David Page shed, we could hear the rain beating down on the roof.
Roger continued removing 20 years worth of accumulated grime
Not hard to see where he'd been
 I de-greased and then painted some of the already cleaned areas under the tender
A useful start
 Unfortunately painting something above your head is quite tiring on your arms, and you have to be fairly careful not to brush against bits that you have already painted.  The top of my cap now has a few specks of green primer that it didn't have before... fact, so do my boots.
I noted that somebody had recently put a coat of primer on one of the vacuum cylinders that was in need of attention, I think this one was 3850's:
Vac cylinder body...
...and one of the end caps
 Outside, once the rain had finally stopped, a local farmer had chosen that day to do some muck spreading on his fields:

It didn't half pen & ink!
Keith hands over the token at Toddington to Eleanor
 I had quite an interesting conversation with Keith in Toddington signal box, just as I have a rating scale of drivers depending on the amount of steam that they will require, so does he of firemen and cleaners regarding their ability at token exchanges, Eleanor will be pleased to know that she was somewhere around the top of the list.

Our locos are always turned out nice and clean on the outside, but in the mornings before a normal running day, there is no time available to clean between the frames.  The public don't see under there, but it still matters that it is done, as the driver is less likely to spot any defects such as cracked springs, or loose bolts etc, if everything is coated in a thick layer of oily grime.  Accordingly, it is essential that periodic cleaning underneath the locos takes place as well.  On Saturday, Alex led a small team of people cleaning under 4270.
Alex (l) under 4270
 The work under Dinmore Manor's old tender continued on Saturday:
David scraping away 20 years of accumulated grime
 I noted that the wheels for the tender had arrived back from being turned at the South Devon Railway.
Tender wheels
No further work took place on 3845's old boiler, but Mike sent me this picture of the conditions that he had endured last week.
Full of scale
 The amount of scale in the boiler speaks volumes of how poorly they were treated in their last days in service, obviously nobody could be bothered to wash it out if it was soon to be sent for scrap.

2807 was in the shed for some attention to her clack valves.  They are sealed on their joint against the boiler by a taylor ring gasket, however they wanted to try the type that have been used successfully on 3850 made of PTFE.  This involves cutting a groove in the seating face.
One of 3850's clack valves on the left, 2807's on the right.
Note the groove cut into 3850's
 Meanwhile of course, the railway was hosting Thomas the tank engine and his friends.
Daisy, amused that herself and "Dr George" are now internet stars.
The 04 shunter was in the parlour road at Toddington, however the naughty troublesome trucks had nobbled its starter moter, so it was unable to run up and down siding one as usual.
The 04, sadly sidelined...
...the troublesome toad seemed happy enough though (photo courtesy of Gwendolyne Wood)
Thomas was present too of course... (photo courtesy of Gwendolyne Wood)
...and he helped his crew to cook a delicious breakfast on the shovel...

...before heading off to Winchcombe to entertain the children
 The big green engine's crew wanted to split the shift (it's a fairly long day otherwise) and I had volunteered to take over for the last 2 runs. 
The lineside clearance gang was doing a good job...
...probably producing more smoke than we were
Martin topping up the tank
Gwendolyne made herself very useful by pulling coal forward
 One young lad was a bit confused and asked me why Henry was wearing a nameplate that said "Foremarke Hall".  I replied that Henry was a rather shy engine and preferred to travel around incognito.  He wasn't one for letting fame go to his head.
The rather shy engine.
 There were several of the diesels running during the event as well, though as they weren't recognised Thomas characters, they didn't have faces.
The class 37 arriving at Winchcombe
 Peter, one of the steam loco dept's Wednesday gang had been moonlighting as a platform announcer at Winchcombe for the Thomas event on Saturday.  Apparently one little lad had lost his shoe somewhere on the railway.  After an all stations broadcast, the missing shoe was recovered and a TTI on one of the trains managed to reunite the shoe with its owner.  Such are the dramas of a Thomas event.
The lost shoe (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
 You never know quite where losing your shoe will end up, poor old Cinderella got stuck with marrying the prince after losing her's.  I believe there was a happy ending in this case though.

At the end of the day, Gwendolyne remembered the old saying that you can't get passed out on the big kettles until you have mastered the small ones:
Gwendolyne brews up, Martin eagerly awaits a cuppa'.
The big green engine watches as his crew empty the ash pit.
And finally, we have the good news that we have one more firewoman  fireperson fireman in the team.  Eleanor was assessed by Inspector Irving on Thursday and has successfully passed out.
Eleanor with Inspector Irving
 The bunch of flowers has caused something of a stir on social media, and several trainee firemen are now looking forward to receiving a bouquet when they pass out. One previous fireman on the line has mentioned that he feels disappointed that he didn't receive any flowers when he had qualified.   The flowers were not from the inspector, but from Eleanor's husband who was present to congratulate her.  Any future firemen who want flowers on passing out, should find romantically inclined spouses of their own.


  1. I also am shocked to read here that David Shepherd has passed on to that great canvas in the sky. I would have thought it would have made the National news, but I can only say that I did not hear or see anything on T.V. or radio.
    On a lighter note, I see that you had a very successful Thomas weekend again. Sorry, it's not my thing but I am glad it went well for the children and adults that do like the Thomas extravaganzas. Regards, Paul.

  2. That Lineside Clearance gang picture is actually Andy Protherough and the Drainage Gang....(They like bonfires as well)

  3. I'm glad you described Eleanor as a fireman, so many crackpot PC words these days. Well done to Eleanor as well.

  4. On token exchange. When I was rostered signalman at Highley SVR, I took the view, (and so did the train crews), that your hand alone is not sufficient for token catching, (can be missed, dropped etc...), and adopted a stance where my arm became a bent pole onto which a token can be hooked. The same for the fireman as I held the token like it would be in a mechanical token exchange device, (as is/was seen on the Welsh lines), which worked without fail. Regards, Paul.

  5. I remember coming on shed one early summer evening. David had set up his easel and was in the process of painting the motion on 92203. With nobody else around it was a privilege to watch him paint. A great enthusiast and ambassador for our hobby who will be sadly missed.