Monday, 26 March 2018

Next Stop, Broadway

This week's blog is a joint effort, I wanted to cover the volunteer specials to Broadway on Wednesday & Thursday, but being a humble wage slave, I was unable to arrange the time to go along myself.  Eleanor was rostered to fire 35006 on Thursday to Broadway and she has graciously allowed her arm to be twisted to provide a report of the day. 

As you are probably well aware the public opening of the line extension to Broadway is fast approaching. The Easter weekend, 30th March - 2nd April should be in your diaries as the time for joining us for this special event. For shareholders and volunteers of the GWSR however there was something of a sneak preview on last Wednesday and Thursday with a number of special trains running up to Broadway for them. I was fireman on the Thursday and my trusty steed for the day was Merchant Navy 35006. Equipped with a headboard commemorating the event we left the shed in good time to start warming up the carriages.
No doubt as to where we're going
 The event attracted a certain amount of media attention, with photographers and even a team, who I believe to be from some part of ITV news, expressing interest in us. 
35006 becoming a film star
There was also interest in activities inside the cab with a camera being placed to film during the journey up to Broadway.
A spy in the cab
Each of the trains (three steam and one diesel hauled) made one round trip of Toddington-Winchcombe-Broadway-Toddington, with a brief stop at Winchcombe to allow passengers to take a look at the new Tim Mitchell building. Now complete this building will be used for various activities at the Winchcombe  station site. 

Running up to Broadway is of course a new experience for our drivers and for the new section of track each one (Chris, Paul and Mark took one round trip each) had to be accompanied by a route conductor (Neil) who would describe the features of the route, such as crossings, which we were to meet on the line ahead.

The line extension also takes us over the border into Worcestershire, the location of the transition being marked appropriately.
Crossing the boarder - passports at the ready please!
On arrival at Broadway the passengers were able to admire the new station buildings.
Signal box at Broadway - very suitably GWR
 The crew had the more mundane but very necessary task of running the loco around the train ready for the return journey. The signal box at Broadway is not yet operational so the run round loop will for the present be controlled by a pair of ground frames. These are the same ground frames that were at Laverton when the line terminated there, the one at the Toddington end of the loop is operated using the key on the section staff. Operation of the ground frame is usually the fireman's job, but as part of the drivers' route familiarisation they got a look in too on this occasion, to make sure we were all sure of the operation.

On one of the trips, with the loco repositioned and coupled onto the train, I returned to the cab to find a rather unusual footplate visitor. The gentleman in question was a piece of asparagus.
Asparagus Man, one of Marvel's lesser known super heroes!
His presence was not entirely unrelated to the railway, but possibly a little premature. On Monday 23rd of April the GWSR will be running the Asparagus express, a new event for the railway  that will form part of the British Asparagus Festival. Asparagus lovers may be interested to find out more here.

With four round trips completed, several hundred or our volunteers and shareholders had ridden up to Broadway. The success of the whole project is testimony to the commitment, enthusiasm and vision of the GWSR. A true team effort that the whole railway should be very proud of.
We've arrived - the running-in board tells no lies!
Moving on to Saturday, this was to be the penultimate service train day before the public opening to Broadway.  I arrived suitably early in order to prepare Foremarke Hall. 

The day started well, upon examining Foremarke Hall's tender, I discovered that there was enough coal, not just for the day, but another week's worth of running.  I've never seen one of our tenders with so much coal in it.  No having to send a cleaner scuttling to the back of the tender to bring coal forward today.
The fireman's dream!
 Another item of note, was that because the south headshunt was rather curtailed during the addition of the new turn outs, there was no longer enough room in there to extricate the DMU from the yard.  The DMU was now parked on the parlour road, which prevented access to the ash pit.  For the duration of the works on the new turn outs, we will have to ash out on the new pits outside the David Page shed.
A flooded and inaccessible ash pit
 Rain, indeed heavy rain was forecast for the early morning period whilst we were prepping the loco.  Mercifully the forecast was as accurate as usual, so by the time I arrived, what rain there was was already tailing off, and it was turning into a pleasant day.

Jeremy was the rostered cleaner:
Jeremy attending to one of Foremarke Hall's nameplates
Towards the end, there was quite a gang of people assisting him
 It's the driver's job to oil up the locomotive, Ian chose to oil up one of his boots and the footplate floor as well.
Well lubricated
 Departing from the yard now has the peril running out of rail.  As mentioned earlier, the south headshunt is somewhat foreshortened whilst the new turn outs are being installed.  There is a real danger that if you go too far past what was hitherto the last point before the headshunt, that you will sail through a stop board and disappear off the end of the track
It's out there somewhere....
...appearing through the mist...
...there it is!
On 35006, you get even less room to play with.
 Come 10:00, we were on our way, and the PWay gang were by then hard at work installing the turn out in the south headshunt. 
The permanent Way team at work
Disappearing through Greet tunnel
 We acquired a footplate passenger at Cheltenham Race Course who was celebrating his 70th birthday.
Very happy with his birthday present.
 As you are probably aware, the line speed for heritage railways is limited to 25 MPH.  Ian pointed out the Foremarke Hall's speedo was nailed at exactly the right speed, the amusing thing was, that we were stationary at Toddington at the time.
Still more accurate than the weather forecast
 At this point, the straight forward three round trips format that we had initially expected was departed from.  2807 had just had a steam test after a wash out, and was added for the second round trip to test that all was well with the boiler, and also to make sure that recent winter repairs such as the re-white metalling of one of the connecting rods had been done successfully.  We don't usually run double headed steam trains outside of the Cotswold Festival of Steam gala, so this was a fairly rare treat.
Setting off double headed
Apparently the double heading warranted an audience.
 I noted during that day that the line side clearance team have put in sterling work over the winter period, with much of the extraneous foliage along the way cleared back opening up the views from the train.
Here they are at work near Didbrook
 We received a message from the signalman at Winchcombe that a gate was open near Cheltenham Race Course and that there were sheep on the line.  The prospect of roast lamb on our 4-6-0 mobile BBQ was an enticing one, and we were disappointed to discover that the gate had been shut and the sheep safely rounded up again.
No BBQ for us
 Arriving at Cheltenham race Course, 2807 detached from the train and ran round the stock on its own, leaving us at the tail of the train for the return journey.
Red shade in the lamp
 This had several benefits, we didn't need to hook off and on again at Cheltenham Race Course, and we would be spared the trouble of doing the same thing when we got back to Toddington too, a real bonus.

Unlike when it was done for real on heavy trains on the big railway, when we run double headed, or topping and tailing, it's the lead locomotive that is supposed to do all the work, the train or trailing loco should do nothing.  This, when coupled with lengthy layovers at Toddington, meant that some skill was called for to keep the fire alive and across the whole grate, whilst at the same time neither blowing off, nor letting the water level get too high.  I cunningly let Jeremy fire this trip, so that he would get the blame when it all went wrong.  Needless to say, he managed extremely well, maintaining a clean sheet throughout.  The carriages must have been remarkably warm by the end of that trip though.
Jeremy used the shovel sparingly
 From the driver's point of view, once satisfied that the lubrication was working as it should, there was little to do.
Ian, watching the world pass by
2807 pulls us towards Toddington on the way back
 Hayles Abbey Halt is now in use for steam trains and new work instructions have been issued to deal with it.  We even had a couple of people choose to get off there on the middle trip.
Two passengers alighting at Hayles Abbey Halt
 Hayles Abbey Halt is a request halt, a note in the shelter instructs passengers to hold out their arm on the platform if they want the train to stop to pick them up.  Not everybody who waits on the platform is necessarily a passenger though
This chap just wanted to take photos
 The steam loco dept has a new locomotive.  Not steam alas, but a diesel shunter is always a useful thing to have around.  This one is D2280, a class 04, built for British Railways in 1960 and sold into industrial use in 1971.
And finally, one of my network of spies had taken a day off from his usual espionage duties and went moonlighting to another railway.  I'll dock him a week's pay for that!  Anyway, he was a little surprised to find that Ben, one of our drivers was also moonlighting on the WSR:
Ben, on 9466 (Photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)

Monday, 19 March 2018

While The Cat's Away

Your humble blogger took a week's holiday and has had to depend on his network of spies to compile the blog this week.  The world of espionage is indeed a hazardous one, but before anybody gets too concerned, they are probably all safe from revenge "Novichok" attacks by foreign governments.... well fairly safe anyway, though there is no harm in their relatives taking out extra life insurance on them I suppose.

My holiday wasn't entirely steam free, as one day was spent on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway playing with what was so nearly one of our gala guests last year.
S&DJR 7F, 53808, plus convenient puddle in Mytholmes Tunnel
We are now just getting into our stride with the 2018 operating season, with the last week seeing the running of a series of race trains to the Cheltenham Gold Cup horse racing event.  Toddington effectively becomes a park and ride terminus for the race goers.  35006 along with Foremarke Hall and Dinmore Manor shared the duties this year.
35006 departs Toddington for Cheltenham Race Course (photo courtesy of Chris Ardy)
  You may remember that this time last year, one of our drivers, Andy, was interviewed live on BBC Radio 2 by Chris Evans.  History has repeated itself, and this time Chris Evans was there in person, along with Olympic cyclist and now horse jockey, Victoria Pendleton.
L-r, Andy, Chris Evans, Victoria Pendleton, Ben (photo courtesy of Luke Hudman) 
On the platform wearing the blue top, is Chris, the GWSR's volunteer finance director, who was interviewed on Chris Evans' show, you can find a recording of the interview by clicking on this link and scrolling forward 2 hours and 47 minutes.

Just because our locomotives & rolling stock are from a bygone age, doesn't mean that we shouldn't embrace modern technology when it is appropriate.  I'll infer from the fact that you are reading this blog that you agree. One appropriate advance in technology of recent years is low power LED lights of which the first five have now been installed in the David Page shed by Nigel & Peter.  We'll have better lighting and rack up lower electricity bills.
Five up, thirty more to go (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
 With the running fleet mostly being out earning their keep on the line, there has been little going on by way of maintenance.  2807's group have got to the end of their winter maintenance jobs and have focused on lubricating, cleaning and changing a wrong sized split pin.  There are still the various restoration projects to be worked on of course, and now that Dinmore Manor's winter maintenance has come to an end, the DMLL group have returned their attention to 3850. On Saturday, Matt, Anthony & Sam cracked on with wire brushing & painting the frames. Several people have forwarded photos to me.
Frame stretchers wire brushed & primed (photo courtesy of Sam Perry)
More frame stretchers wire brushed & primed (photo courtesy of Sam Perry)

You will note from the above photo that the old cylinder block is still fitted.  We are hoping that the new one will be cast in the near future, watch this space.
Sam at work (photo courtesy of Matt Hill)
Drag box now in top coat (photo courtesy of Matt Hill)
While much of the outside of the frames is in undercoat (photo courtesy of Matt Hill)
Last, but far from least regarding 3850, is that the boiler from 3845 that will now be used on 3850 has been sent to Ian Riley & Son for refurbishment.
3845's boiler in flight (photo courtesy of Mark Young)
3845's boiler about to depart (photo courtesy of Mark Young)
 As I have seen several people enquiring on various online forums regarding what is to happen to 3845, although it has lost its boiler, it remains very much in the DMLL restoration queue and will be restored in its own right when funds and volunteer resources permit, probably using 3850's old boiler.

And finally, we unfortunately lost another running day due to the unseasonably late snow on Sunday. The following four photos are all courtesy of Nick Carter
Toddington was snowbound once more...
...35006 was once more a block of ice
 The only sensible recourse of action if you can't light up a loco and keep warm by the fire, is to do some work, in this case making sparks fly on Dinmore Manor's old tender (T1761), which needed some old bits of the rotted floor plate removing before new sections can be welded in.
Making sparks fly
Ready for a new floor to be welded in

Here's hoping that there are no more "beasts from the East" to torment us for a while, especially over the Broadway opening weekend.  Keep your fingers crossed!


Sunday, 11 March 2018

First Steam to Broadway

The big news this week is that Foremarke Hall has become the first steam locomotive to arrive at Broadway station under its own steam in the heritage era.  She went there on a gauging run on Friday.
Foremarke Hall at Broadway (photo copyright Jack Boskett)
Foremarke Hall at Broadway (photo copyright Jack Boskett)
Jack is in the happy position of being able to make a living out of photography, if you want to now more about the services he can offer, please follow this link.

Saturday marked the first running day of the new season, with Foremarke Hall rostered to pull the first train:
The view from the footplate at Cheltenham Racecourse (photo courtesy of Andy Beale)
I have received a few more photos of the steam test last Friday showing the work done by the select band of volunteers who battled through the snow

Dinmore Manor's snow covered safety valve bonnet (photo courtesy of Chris Smith)
Winter wonderland in the shed (photo courtesy of Chris Smith)
2807 & Dinmore Manor in steam (photo courtesy of Chris Smith)
Warming up injectors in a snow filled pit (photo courtesy of Chris Smith)
The drive home (photo courtesy of Chris Smith)

Those of you who have been keenly following the progress of 76077 will be pleased to know that the frames and wheel sets have now been ferried off to Loughborough where they will be converted into a rolling chassis by LMS (Locomotive Maintenance Services).  The boiler has remained with us, work won't start on that until the rolling chassis is further advanced.
Waiting patiently
 For some locos, Saturday marked the final day of winter maintenance, with Dinmore Manor finally receiving her new bogie spring hangers.
Spring hangers being fitted (photo courtesy of Keith Smith)
The 2807 group have also been running their winter maintenance programme up to the last minute, and have ticked off the various snags that needed attending to, such as missing split pins and a leaking steam feed to the driver's side injector.  One thing that was on the list was that the inner locking arm of the smoke box door had come adrift from its centre ring and needed welding up.  I happen to know who the culprit is (obviously doesn't know his own strength). 
2807's locking arm, in more bits than it should be.
Name withheld to protect the guilty.

And finally, Dinmore Manor (along with Foremarke Hall and 2807) will be hauling the first public trains to Broadway commencing on Friday 30th March (tickets sold out for the Friday, but later dates in the Easter weekend are still available).  To make sure that she is looking her absolute best, she has been lined out.  
Looking smart
 Dinmore Manor first entered traffic in 1950 in lined black, before converting to unlined black in 1955.  It is appropriate therefore that she retains the early crest on her tender.
Cycling lion
 She even got dragged out into the sun on Saturday:
Dinmore Manor, all lined out and basking in the sun (photo courtesy of Mike Solloway)