Monday, 18 September 2017

Murder Mystery and the Handsome Prince

4270 has recently returned from a visit to the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway, where she was a guest at their gala.  She had been shedded there back in BR days, so she was a very appropriate loco to pay them a visit.  The line is little over 2 miles long, yet features gradients of as much as 1 in 24. 
4270 at the P&BR (photo courtesy of Andy Beale)
4270 with a demonstration freight train (photo courtesy of Andy Beale)
4270 on the left, home fleet austerity, 71515, Mech Navvies on the right (photo courtesy of Andy Beale)
There are also a couple of videos of the event that have surfaced on Youtube, both of which feature 4270.  The first one can be found by clicking on this link, and the second one by clicking on this link.

At Toddington on Saturday, I noticed that a gala brochure from 1993 had found its way into the mess coach.  That year, the line up included a certain well known pacific locomotive that recently needed rescuing by Dinmore Manor
Good value at 20p

Several people spent a while clearing up the accumulated grime that had built up in various places in the David Page shed.  Whilst helping to clear out the indoor pit, Eleanor discovered what she claimed to be a frog, but which looked more like a toad to me.
Ok, perhaps it's not a GWR brake van after all
When asked if she had kissed it to see if it turned into a handsome prince, she replied that she hadn't because she "Already had one of those".  I imagine several members of the steam loco dept have spluttered their cups of tea across their computer screens at this point.
Should have gone to Specsavers
 The boiler from 3845, that will be fitted to 3850 is now largely cleaned and primed externally.  Attention is now focusing on the tubes, which are in the process of being cut out.
3845's boiler
A selection of the removed tubes
An indication of progress thus far
The wheels for 3850 are busy being painted into gloss black
Wheel painting in progress
 Tender T1761 is still being cleaned of grot & grime underneath, with a view to painting prior to the wheels being refitted.  This will then allow the tender to be removed from the lifting jacks as there is a queue of other projects patiently waiting their turn to be lifted.
After considerable cleaning, it's slowly getting better under there.
Water scoop still in situ.
 35006 has come to the end of a run of steamings, and was in the shed for some general fettling.  Clive & Dan were to be found inside the firebox, checking on the state of the fusible plugs, grate, and tubes etc.
Clive & Dan inside 35006's firebox
35006 in the shed.
 With their loco out running the service trains and the prospect of a heavy general overhaul in a few short years, the 2807 group got on with one of their fund raising activities, turning old chairs into boot scrapers.
Bruce wielding a rotary wire brush
This particular one dates from 1898...
...and appears to be from the Midland Railway
 The finished articles make fine gifts for that person in your life who probably appears to already have everything and who you would otherwise just end up getting yet another pair of socks for Christmas.  They are on sale in the entrance of the Flag & Whistle at Toddington, and excellent value at £40.
Boot scrapers in the Flag & Whistle
 Foremarke Hall was receiving a little TLC from it's owning group, some attention was required to the speedo drive which appeared to have been in the wars lately.
Speedo drive partially removed for some fettling
 The final part of the shed floor to be concreted, the south end of road 6, had seen some attention from a roller, in readiness for reinstating the track.
Road 6, after rolling.
I was booked on to fire the evening train, a fish & chip special the loco for the evening was 2807, which had been running as train 2 on the red timetable during the day.
Coal was added for the evening
Clive kindly emptied out the ash pan
"Cheltenham Fryer" headboard attached
As it turned out, it wasn't just a fish and chip special, there was a murder/mystery event taking place as well.  The first I knew about it was when a group of thespians started some last minute rehearsing on platform 1 at Toddington.
"Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York"
OK, so we're not in York, but once in costume, the cast did include 6015:
King Richard, the third of that name
The actor confessed that although he had made a model railway for his five year old son, the lad had wanted diesels rather than steam.  He was wondering if he would ever live it down!

Speaking of diesels, our first task of the evening was to shunt release the class 20, which was returning with train 2, which it had taken for the last round trip of the day.

Returning with train 2
Heading off to shed after we had released it.
 Finally, after depositing the maroon rake in the north siding, we attached 2807 to the chocolate & cream rake in platform 1.  You can tell that summer is over, the guard requested that we provide steam heat.

Steam heat connected, at least nobody will be mysteriously murdered in the cold
The turn had seen some changes to the crew, George had originally been rostered to drive, but in the end had to attend a meeting of the DMU owning group instead, so Jamie took over as driver.  Ash had been rostered as cleaner, but had managed to double book himself, so Eleanor took the cleaning turn in his place.  Not being one to do any work myself if I could get somebody else to do it, I passed the shovel over to Eleanor.
Eleanor, building up the fire before departure
There was no exact timetable to follow, but the turn was roughly to leave Toddington for Winchcombe at about 7pm, wait there for about 45 minutes whilst some theatrics took place, then head off to Cheltenham Race Course Station for about 45 minutes more for the fish and chips to be delivered, then back to Winchcombe for ten minutes or so for ice cream, and finally back to Toddington.  From the firing point of view, a bit of an exercise in boiler control with all those lengthy stops to deal with.
Drama on the platform at Winchcombe
I didn't hang around on the platform to find out what went on, so I don't know the plot of who died and the mystery of "whodunit".  I'm reliably informed that it's usually the butler, but I don't think that there was a butler present.  Must have been the guard then... I'm pretty sure that it wasn't any of the footplate crew anyway.

From the nice warm cab of 2807, I could hear the occasional gasp from the audience and at one point, even a few blood curdling screams (hopefully from the actors and not the audience).  By the time that plot had thickened and it was time to move on, it was getting to be quite dark.
Eleanor's first shot at firing in the dark.
Winchcombe and 2807 in the gathering gloom
Cheltenham Race Course Station after dark

The star attraction of the turn for the crew was of course the fish and chips waiting for us at Cheltenham Race Course Station.
Jamie, tucking in to his supper.
Jolly nice it was too.
Even the actors had fish and chips
Headboard on the smoke box, ready to depart
Putting 2807 to bed at the end of the day
And finally, we are getting round to that time of year when trainees start passing passing out. I am pleased to be able to bring you the news that Clive has passed out as a driver.  His mantle as our oldest fireman has now been passed on to Chris. 
Clive (l) with Inspector Lacey. (photo courtesy of Ed Brooks)
I recently noticed a rather nice portrait of Clive on Flickr, which you can find if you follow this link.  Congratulations Clive.


  1. How come PBR can push trains with passengers on them and we can't!

    1. Are you sure that the PBR can propel with passengers on board? Are you sure that you didn't see an empty coaching stock movement?

  2. How are the footplate crews getting on with the banner repeaters at Winchcombe not being lit, now that some trains are mow running after dark? Regards, Paul.

    1. The station lights at Winchcombe seem to provide enough illumination to see the banner repeaters. Bearing in mind that you should only be running at 10MPH through a station, even if going non-stop, you should still get plenty of time to see them and respond accordingly.

    2. Thanks for the prompt reply. Appreciated. Regards, Paul.

  3. I had the unexpected pleasure of my first footplate ride courtesy of john Giles after the 2807 AGM ,so may I thank Jeff Lacey , Andy and Alex for such an enjoyable journey back to Toddington yesterday afternoon . Your skills and professionalism are to be admired .

    I have told Pway HOD about the slewed track on the straight after Chicken Curve which they are aware of and hope to get the Tamper on it soon .

    thanks again for a memorable experience john Mayell .