Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Thomas 1:0 England

It seems that it's not just classic steam locomotives that get attracted to the GWSR, Peter spotted this little collection at Toddington last week.
Route master bus (not for rail replacement services I should add)
Bugatti & Ford
 I'm sure that there is a joke in there somewhere about not being able to afford a Bugatti.
Bugatti... very nice indeed!
Cars were even to be found in the shed, in this case, Nigel & Chris were busy installing emergency lights in the indoor pit.
I don't think this one is steam powered!
All the above photos courtesy of Peter Gutteridge.

Sunday saw the return of the famous blue engine... no, not 6023, King Edward II, but Thomas.  Sharing the stage with Thomas was Foremarke Hall, which we usually refer to on these occasions as "The big green engine" for want of a better name.

 For reasons that were never entirely clear to me, Thomas started the day round on the shed wearing both an L plate and a P plate.
Public Image LTD?
 The L plate was nicked and placed on Foremarke Hall the big green engine, as we had Andy, a learner driver at the controls.
Andy insisted on hiding the L plate in the cab though
 As usual, the fat controller was on hand to make sure that everything ran smoothly on the day.  His talents would have been better employed on the big railway where everything is currently far from being as well run as it is on the island of Sodor.  He had also very kindly brought some coal along for Thomas.  The big green engine was declared to be too big and had been put on a diet, no coal cakes for us.
It comes to something when you're put on a diet by the fat controller
 The big green engine has a full on day, and once it has left Toddington, spends the day non-stop shuttling passengers between Cheltenham Race Course station and Winchcombe where the majority of the child friendly activities take place.  On our first trip back up to Winchcombe, we found Thomas waiting in the yard and the customary friendly whistles were exchanged.
Whistle while you work
 The next time that we appeared in Winchcombe, there was Thomas as expected, and although we whistled, there was no response.
A silent Thomas
 We discovered that Thomas' crew had all decided that it was far too hot to loaf around in Thomas' cab by the fire and had gone off to relax on the seats by the Carriage & Wagon dept.
I hope the fat controller doesn't find out, or there will be trouble!
One of our crew had obtained tickets for the day so that this wife, daughter (Emily) and granddaughter (Sophie) could enjoy the event.  His wife was fairly relaxed about spending a day with steam locomotives, but Emily was rather less so. Emily would have preferred to have been at home watching England play Panama in the world cup... and she hates football with a passion.  Watching slow motion action replays of paint drying would have been a distinct preference to either the football or Thomas.  Emily's misery was compounded even further by Sophie noticing that grandad was covered in coal dust and announcing that when she is older that she would like to drive steam engines and get grubby like grandad.  Emily was won round by the end of the day though, especially when she discovered that most of the children thought that 7903 was the Thomas character called Emily.  Heaven knows why, Emily is clearly a Stirling single, which aside from being steam powered has just about nothing in common with a Modified Hall such as 7903. 
Foremarke Hall having an identity crisis
You might well have thought that Thomas clashing with England playing in the world cup would have had a detrimental effect on visitor numbers, which wasn't the case, though there was a notable gender imbalance amongst the parents.  Updates on the score were relayed to us from time to time, but at least one of us was heard to proclaim that he really wasn't interested in a bunch of overpaid millionaires kicking a bag of wind around. 

 As usual, the diesels (two class 37's) were out and about as well, though neither was equipped with a face.  As far as I can tell nobody seemed to mind.
One of the class 37's
 At the end of the day, it was discovered that the water pump in the ash pit had stopped working, so we ended up disposing on the new pits.
Luke trying to coax the pump into life
Luke (L) and Steve checking that "Emily" has washed behind her ears
 Following on from the theme of last week, 7903, The Big Green Engine Emily Foremarke Hall is now stopped for a washout, Dinmore Manor will be hauling the trains on the running days this week, along with 2807 at the weekend.

I have received the following couple of photos courtesy of Matthew Harris of 7903 at work on Saturday:
Trainee fireman James at work
(L-r), James, Matthew, Ade & Andrew with The big green Emily?
And finally, I note from one of the GWSR'sa social media outlets that there is now a last minute vacancy for a place on the silver footplate experience course on Friday 6th July.  Sign up, and you just might find yourself featuring on this blog ;-)

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

It's a Washout

After many years of wondering why I actually write this blog, I finally discovered what it is, it's so that I can be reunited with items of lost property.  Many thanks to Rod for finding my lost watch in the four foot at Broadway and returning it to me.
Still telling the right time...
...and why it became detached from my wrist
 The gala is all done and dusted now, and the locos all returned whence they came, or sent on to wherever they're going next.  Before 70013, Oliver Cromwell departed though, the pseudo Garrett shown below was to be seen in the yard.
Photo courtesy of Brian Andrews
 The last of our gala visitors, 6023 King Edward II left during the week

6023 on the unloading road, photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge
 There was even a very nice thank you note on the mess coach notice board from 6023's CME.
We'd love to have her back
 For some while now, we have had rostered turns for people to put warming fires into locos the night before they are to be used if they are not already warm.  This has proved to be very helpful, however there was nobody rostered to do this for 35006 on Friday, so I made my way to Toddington to sort it out for myself.
Warming fire started
 We seem to be going through a phase of lots of boiler washouts at the moment, 2807 and 7820 both being part way through the process and 35006 ready for one after Sunday's running.
Dinmore Manor in the shed...
...just in case nobody noticed that the boiler was empty
 By very late that evening, Mark & Mike had boxed up and refilled the boilers of both 2807 & 7820 and put warming fires in, in anticipation of steam tests on Saturday.  I had to disappear fairly early as I had an early start on Saturday morning... that didn't prevent me from getting updates as to how the process was going though:
Photo courtesy of Mike Solloway
Mark & Mike were still on site at 11pm before they had refilled the boilers of both 2807 and 7820 as well as getting warming fires going.

It's fair to say that I hadn't done a warming fire in quite a while, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect when I arrived on Saturday morning.  Suffice it to say I was in no rush to get the fire lit... apparently Mark had "enhanced" my warming fire after I had left.

Footplate crew don't just pass out at a particular role, and then stay there forever, you have to prove that you can still do it every 2 years... and that is for both practical exams and written exams.  On Saturday was time for my biennial practical firing exam.  I prepared in the only way possible, with a brand new pair of shiny boots.
Shiny boots!
I can only conclude that we must be desperately short of firemen as I was passed again.  Just imagine if we had to retake our car driving tests every couple of years.

After having had to do it all myself for the first round trip under the watchful eye of Chris (the inspector), for the second round trip, I thought I'd make Jeremy (the cleaner) earn his keep:
Filling the tender......
...wrestling with the elephant trunks...
...and putting fire in the belly of the beast
Our driver (Paul) moonlights by day in the GWSR's admin department, I had been forewarned that he was bringing a bin bag full of confidential waste that needed to be incinerated.  He could tell me what was in it, but then he'd have to shoot me!  Personally I think it was juts a ploy to reduce the railway's coal bill by getting us to use alternative fuels.
The saucer bin bag full of secrets
Jeremy feeds the alternate fuel into the fire...
...well, most of it anyway.
The following day, Jeremy had a trip out on the big railway behind 35028, Clan Line, another Merchant Navy class loco.  He was sat in his seat, when another passenger walked past, looked at him and said "Weren't you firing one of these yesterday?".  It's a small world at times.

It seems that inter-departmental transitioning is a thing at the GWSR, I noticed that Saul, who is more normally noted for being a guard is now training to be a signalman
Saul waits to collect the token, Tony keeps an eye on the proceedings
Running round at Broadway
According to Paul, having got the cleaner to do most of the hard work meant that I should have sorted out the lamps and headboard for him.
Paul, miffed at having to change the lamps and headboard himself
Paul, back in the driving seat.
It still seems odd, handing over the train to a diesel, in this case, it was the class 47
After disposal, 35006 was due to go out on an evening Fish & Chip special, crewed by Phil & Aaron.  The F&C's are obviously quite popular with crews as you can order a fish and chip supper to enjoy on the footplate.  It's less usual to also have a fish and chip supper before the turn as well, though that is exactly what Aaron did.
Aaron with his first portion of fish & chips, Phil wonders if you can get fish and chip pizza.
Apparently the "Cheltenham Fryer" headboard's brackets are not deep enough to clear the smoke box locking arms on 35006.  It is possible to fit the headboard on the lower middle lamp bracket, but only upside down:
Australian fish and chips anybody?
Suitable extenders for the brackets were eventually located and the headboard was finally displayed correctly.
Aaron finally attaches it where it should be fitted
What of the boiler washouts?  Well 2807 passed hers on Saturday, however 7820 failed with a slight leak from the lower gauge frame test cock.  She was left to cool down, the boiler partially drained and the test cock re-sealed before the steam test was passed on Sunday.
7820's Leaking test cock
2807, washout completed
This is all good news, as 35006 was stopped for a washout after working on Sunday.

Moving on to Sunday, a couple more photos from Matthew Harris, Mike & Mark had finished 7820's washout now, just in time to start on 35006's.
7820 passed her post-washout steam test (photo courtesy of Matthew Harris)
Matthew had continued the excellent work of painting 3850's frames (photo courtesy of Matthew Harris)
And finally, I have been fortunate enough to receive a small collection of photos of lorries that have hit our bridge at Broadway in years gone by.  I believe that all of these are from the 1980's and as can be seen, the lorries definitely came off second best. 

Many thanks indeed to B. Jordan who provided the above 4 photos.  Should you happen to know any lorry drivers, don't hesitate to let them know what the consequences of not knowing the height of your load is.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

All Change Please

The weekend started with the news that 3850 is no longer born aloft by the accommodation bogies that frankly ill suited her, but is now on a set of frame stands.  I understand that Mike & Seb put in some sterling work with the lifting jacks, incrementally raising each end until the stands could be put in place.  There is one more pair of stands to be inserted followed by some shimming in order to get the frames accurately levelled.  After that plenty of measurements have to be taken (measure twice, cut once) before the old cylinder block can be removed.
Look mum, no wheels....
...though a set of chocks have been left in place anyway.
 The tender that will next run behind 3850 was receiving some TLC on Saturday, with a number of people being involved in wire brushing off paint on various pipes & fittings that will need to be painted before they can be refitted.
Ken, wire brushing some of the vacuum brake pipe work
Martin wire brushing the brake adjusters
Once again, more work took place on Sunday, with Matthew Harris kindly providing the next two photos of 3850's fireman's side running plate which has been wire brushed and primed.
Wire brushed...
...and  neatly primed.
Saturday night saw the running of a photo charter with 7820, Dinmore Manor and 6023, King Edward II, (the last of our gala visitors to remain on site) double heading on the chocolate and cream rake.  I had originally anticipated being the GWSR's representative on the line side, making sure that all ran safely and smoothly... basically being the responsible adult. I think that I'm correct in saying that in the lead up to the event, both the driver and fireman of Dinmore Manor had to stand down and replacements found.   Then, very shortly beforehand, the other fireman had to cancel.  Yours truly stepped up to the plate... OK, footplate to wield the shovel on 6023 (it's a tough job, but somebody has got to do it) which left a vacancy for somebody else to fill covering my original job.  Eleanor very kindly agreed to stand in, and everybody agreed that she would be far better suited to being a responsible adult than me.

In the end, in spite of a lacklustre weather forecast, the sun shone at all the right times and an excellent collection of photos was taken by all... well OK, not quite all, there wasn't much that I could do from the footplate.
Leading Dinmore Manor up to Winchcombe for the first shoot of the evening
 To be honest, I had consigned the evening down to being us being dragged about all evening by Dinmore Manor, with just a bit of chuff on during the runs past to make it look good for the photographers.  I had forgotten that every run past requires a set back, and that we would be doing that quite a lot.  Once that particular penny had dropped, I needed to revive the fire a bit. 
Chris, operating 6023's big red handle
The view from 6023's footplate as we left Greet tunnel

One cheeky chap blagged a footplate ride on 6023 for the last mile or two up to Broadway, recording the sound as he went.  In conversation later, it transpired that he is a vicar and was intending to work the charter into his sermon the following day.  I'm curious as to how that went. 
Did he wear hi-viz along with his dog collar in the pulpit though
As already mentioned, my opportunity to take photos was extremely limited, an appeal for photos from the attendees has turned up the following:
Departing Greet Tunnel, photo courtesy of Simon Mulligan
Sunset & Steam, photo courtesy of Simon Mulligan
6023 at Toddington, photo courtesy of Simon Mulligan

At Greet Tunnel, photo courtesy of Mark Kemp

Sunset and steam, photo courtesy of Mark Kemp

At Toddington, photo courtesy of Mark Kemp
The next three are all by Jack Boskett
Sun setting on Dinmore Manor and King Edward II
Post sunset at Toddington
Fully dark at Toddington
I particularly like that last photo, as Keith (guard) was stood motionless for ages whilst his picture was taken.  Chris & I, lurking in the cab did our best to put him off of course.  Meanwhile at the other end of the train, Dinmore Manor's crew were happily cooking bacon and sausages on the shovel.  Fortunately our request for sausage & bacon sarnies to be sent up to our end of the train didn't fall on deaf ears.