Thursday, 30 August 2018

One Less Fireman

We recently had an articulated lorry load of pallets arrive for use in lighting up our locos.  I was a little amused to note that they arrived in a refrigerated lorry, as if that might help.
Not every railway has temperature controlled lighting up wood you know
 The steam loco dept is once more assisting in the Broadway Station project... yes, I know that the station is already very much open, but there is still much to be done before it can be declared finished.  The task in hand at the moment is the footbridge, which although it spans the tracks is currently bereft of steps.  Neal is busy creating the steps in the David Page shed.  Once complete, the steps will be put in place at Broadway.  Platform 2 is still a building site, so the footbridge will initially be blocked off to prevent access to the platform, but you will at least be able to get up to the deck of the bridge and watch the trains as they come and go underneath.
Framework for the footbridge steps in the David Page shed
 We don't just build bridges between GWSR departments, we do active maintenance and overhauls of our steam locos as well.  The current project that is getting a lot of attention is 3850 and what will be its tender (previously used behind Dinmore Manor).
Roger, wire brushing part of the tender's sump
Kenneth priming under the running plate
Sam, perusing the soon to be changed cylinder block
Eleanor painting 3850's wheel splashers
The running plate has moved on to being in black undercoat now.
 I recently noticed on an Internet forum a heated debate about which livery 3850 should be painted in when it re-enters traffic.  I refrained from comment, but I'd like to make the following observations.  First and foremost and usually completely overlooked is that the primary purpose of painting steel is not to make it look pretty, but to prevent it from rusting.  Secondly, steam loco restoration projects start off costing 6 figure sums and go up from there, 3850 is no different in this respect. Views regarding livery will have more importance attached to them if accompanied by significant contributions of cash to assist with getting 3850 back into steam.  

On Tuesday, I stood in for another fireman who had been unable to cover his turn.  I had been forewarned both that our usual supplier of Welsh coal had been unable to make a delivery the preceding week, and that we had had another delivery of Scottish coal, but even that was now running low.  I feared arriving and finding a quarter full tender of mostly dust with the odd lump thrown in, but as it turned out my fears were groundless.
Plenty for the two round trips of the purple timetable
The previous batch of Scottish coal had been largely used up whilst I was on holiday, so I missed it, but I knew what to expect, it catches fire quicker, burns through quicker and if you're not careful can create lots of dense black smoke.
John disregards the smoke & cleans 2807's smoke box
We had a further delivery of Scottish coal on Tuesday morning, so at least we should have enough supplies to keep our trains running for a while.
Tartan coal arriving
The supply of cleaning rags appears to have fallen very low, if you have something suitable, please pop it into the green bin by the entrance to the yard.
Won't clean many locos with just that!
There would also be a diesel running on Tuesday, we were asked to shunt it out of the diesel shed before it was started up.
37215 emerges into the morning air.
Train 2 on the purple timetable has its loco hook on at the south end to do a brake test on the stock, then wait until train 1 has gone, before running round to the north end and departing for Broadway.  After hooking on at the south  end, I noticed that we have some unwelcome visitors
"Caution Wasp Nest"
I didn't see any wasps myself, so hopefully the problem is now past.

The other running steam loco, 35006 was being fired by Chris, who rather cheekily pointed at the darker than it should have been smoke emanating from 2807's chimney and said that he would be checking every time that we crossed at Winchcombe to make sure that I wasn't creating too much smoke.
Chris & his Winchcombe challenge
John kindly provided bacon rolls for breakfast.
John, tackling his breakfast
We also had a visitor on the footplate, Alex from the Pontypool & Blaenavon  Railway, a friend of Andy's who was the rostered driver.
Alex (l) and Andy enjoying their bacon rolls.
Keeping Chris' challenge in mind, I made sure that there was very little smoke at Winchcombe. 
Not too bad!
Chris however had the disadvantage of being held at the bracket
Regardless of smoke, teddy bears (for it was the last of the summer holiday teddy bear Tuesdays) were out in force.
If you go down in the woods today...
The cleaner, John, is well advanced into fireman training, so I let him have a go on the shovel for a while.
John hooking on...
...and of course feeding the fire
Usually I just let the cleaner deal with the firing aspect and deal with the remainder of the fireman's job myself, but in this case I let him get on with everything.  My faith in him was well placed, he was alert to all of his duties and displayed excellent boiler control, in spite of it being his first time of firing with Scottish coal.
Passing the 37 at WInchcombe
You end up shovelling far more of the Scottish coal to generate steam than you do with the Welsh.  What had looked like a healthy supply first thing in the morning was reduced to a small pile of dust by the time that we finished the day
Andy clearing up the last vestiges of coal in tender
The crew of train 2 also get to shunt release the diesel when it gets back from Cheltenham Race Course at the end of the day
37215 escapes after we had shunted its stock out of the way
There was no digger driver available at the end of the day, and we were down to just a few shovels full of dust in the tender.  Andy & Alex shovelled three wheel barrow loads of coal up onto the footplate so that the following day's fireman would at least have something to light up with.
Andy shovelling coal up onto the footplate
Meanwhile, underneath 2807, John got to grips with emptying the ash pan on 2807.
There was plenty to rake out.
 Before setting off on Tuesday, I noticed that Roger had turned up, intending to add another top coat to 3850's wheels.  Being otherwise engaged on the footplate during the day, I cheekily asked him to provide photos for this blog himself:  The next two photos courtesy of Roger Tipton.
Roger, struggling to take a selfie with one hand and paint with the other
The finished job
The Wednesday gang have been fettling 4270 this week, which had a steam leak through the left hand piston gland.  The left hand piston was also running hot and when the packing was removed, it was found to be very dry.  The oil supply was simply a drip feed onto the piston rod, but this has now been modified to be like that on 2807 and Foremarke Hall, by incorporating a bit of felt which should retain the oil in place a bit better and help to distribute it around the circumference of the piston rod more evenly.  The next five photos were all provided courtesy of Peter Gutteridge
As it started, just an oil drip feed
Holder for felt tried in position
Bruce (I think) cutting the felt to shape
The cup, used as a template for cutting the felt
The whole lot, put together
Hopefully the lubrication modification will allow 4270 to enjoy many more miles of trouble free running.

And finally, we've got round to that time of year when trainees start to graduate.  I'm very pleased to be able to pass on the news that we have one less fireman, but of course, also one more driver.  Andy has now hung up his shovel and crossed the chalk line down the middle of the cab.  Congratulations Andy.
Andy (l) with Inspector Lacey having passed out as a driver on 4270 (Photo courtesy of Tom Wright)

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Too Many Steves

I need to start this week with an apology, Peter sent these two photos of Dinmore Manor being loaded for transportation to the West Somerset Railway several weeks ago, whilst I was on holiday and I managed to overlook them in the last blog.
Photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge

Photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge
You will note that the skies are a lovely shade of blue, that all seems like such a long time ago now.   Dinmore Manor will return to us at the end of September and hopefully bring the blue skies back with her.

Since the opening to Broadway and the splitting of shifts, turns on the footplate have become more frequent, and often shorter.  On Friday, your humble blogger was down as crew 1 on a blue timetable, which according to the relatively recently issued "Crew Simplifier" meant that I lit up a loco (Foremarke Hall on this occasion) and then fired it for a full round trip of the line, before a relief crew took it over for the rest of the day.  No cleaner had volunteered for the turn, which meant that I had no help with fetching wood, oily rags, emptying the smoke box, nor emptying the ash pan again.  On the plus side, there was plenty of room on the footplate.
We started the day with a bit of a shunt, 4270 was on the pit on road 9 and wanted to go inside the shed on road 8, then 2807 (which was rostered to run on Saturday) needed pulling out of the shed and onto the pit on road 9.

Shunting 4270 with Foremarke Hall

Foremarke Hall, entering the shed to collect 2807
 Fortunately, the light up and shunt were all accomplished in the dry, but by the time that we were hooked onto the maroon rake in platform 2, the heavens had opened. Foremarke Hall's storm sheet had seen remarkably little use recently, and looked a bit surprised as we dragged it out of the tool container.

Andy (driver) staying nice and dry before departure
 The old trick of wedging a broom under the storm sheet to permit rearwards visibility was swung into action.

Amazingly it managed to stay in place without falling out
 The results were a bit mixed though, as an enthusiastically filled tender meant that the coal obscured visibility a bit, and there was no option but to stick your head out through the cab window and get wet if you wanted to see where you were going when running tender first.

On the plus side, we weren't going to run out of coal
 Unexpectedly, we had the maroon rake, which unlike the chocolate & cream rake doesn't have a griddle in the buffet car. This is important stuff, a crew can't set off without a good breakfast inside them.  The buffet car attendant rang through to WInchcombe and ordered bacon rolls for us to be delivered to the footplate as we passed through.  Just what the doctor ordered!

Breakfast keeping warm until we were on the move again.
 As already mentioned, it was persistently raining, I noted that one farmer near Gotherington had paid heed to the old adage, "Make hay while the sun shines"...

Hay bales awaiting collection
 Whereas another farmer near Broadway had only got half way through the job

Too late!
 The combine harvester was still in exactly the same place on Saturday, perhaps the farmer had given up and decided that sampling some of the refreshments on offer during our Real Ale Weekend was a better idea.

The lure of real ale wasn't sufficient inducement, nor the rain a sufficient deterrent to deflect the various line side groups hard at work over the weekend, P Way, Line side Drainage and Line side Clearance all being spotted at various locations
P Way at work near three arch bridge

Running round at Broadway
 Then, all too soon, it was time to hand over Foremarke Hall to Jamie and Mike for the afternoon shift
Mike... not quite quick enough to evade my camera & Jamie (with the headboard)
It seems odd handing over to another crew in the middle of the day

It's been a while since the yard flooded.
Moving on to Saturday, it was now the other way round, I was supposed to sign on at 09:00 and discover my loco (2807 this time) already prepared and ready for me to take over.  As anticipated, Steve F had already done all the pre-flight checks and lit the fire.  Steve B meanwhile had oiled up 2807, so my driver, Steve O was able to sign on at 09:00 and just pick up the loco and go.  I felt rather out of place not being called Steve.

There was a cleaner rostered on Saturday, Angela, who did her best to clean both Foremarke Hall and 2807 for the day's duties. 

Angela about to use the hose-brush on one of the locos
 Steve B is in the throes of becoming an inspector and joined us for the morning on 2807 as a practise session.  Aside from watching Steve O like a hawk, Steve B chose to ask him lots of awkward questions on the whys and wherefores of various different braking systems.  

Steve O (l) looking for the right away, Steve B dreams up cunning questions
 Steve B spent most of his time perched on the tool box inspector's seat and until I pointed the camera at him, usually in a recumbent position.  He complained that there were neither cushions, nor steam heat available for the inspector and that any half decent fireman would have rigged up steam heated cushions for him.

Steve B... spotted my camera and swiftly sat upright and looked alert
 An inspector is supposed to observe the crew in action and assess whether or not they are competent in their roles.  They are not really meant to participate in crewing the loco, however Steve B very kindly shovelled coal forward on several occasions.
Steve B bringing coal forward

Crossing Foremarke Hall at Toddington
 Although the rain over the weekend has dampened things down a bit, line side fires are still a major concern.  Spotting smoke in the distance as we left Toddington, we feared the worst, but were relieved to discover that it was only a bonfire in somebody's garden at Didbrook.

An intentional conflagration
Speaking of smoke, we still have odd lumps of the Scottish coal appearing in the tenders, you never really know what you're going to get... a glance at the chimney soon gives the game away though.
A Scottish lump, surrounded by Welsh
That shovel full was Scottish alright, hope the signalman has the windows closed
No photos I'm afraid, but 2807 now has a set of ash pan guards fitted behind each damper door.  Hopefully this will prevent the egress of ash whilst running and mitigate against line side fires.  Many thanks to Jeremy for hanging around after Foremarke Hall had finished ashing out to assist with ashing out 2807.

More news from Peter, the oil store has taken delivery of 4 drums of motion oil and one of steam oil, the Wednesday gang got them shifted to where they want to go.
Oil in motion, l-r, Ian, Richard & Martin. Photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge

Peter also mentioned that the Building Services dept generously helped out in their lunch break to collect a truck load of pallets for the wood store. 

And finally, inter-departmental help is not the only kind we have, in a spirit of inter-loco owning group cooperation, the 2807 team, flushed with the success of installing an excellent set of ash pan guards on their own loco have gone ahead and done the same for 4270.
One of four ash pan guards on 4270, photo courtesy of Roger Molesworth
I know that it's turned to rain for a while, but the longer term forecast suggests that we will be needing these in the near future.