Monday, 10 September 2018

The Thin End of the Wedge

I need to start with an apology I'm afraid... the emails that inform me of comments on the blog posts dried up a little while ago and I just assumed that it meant that nobody was saying anything.  It turns out that you were saying things, but I didn't spot that as the emails had dried up.  Hopefully normal service... and responses to comments will now be resumed.

After a bit of a marathon session last week, (4 turns in 6 days), it was something of a relief to only have one turn this week, on Saturday.  It was down for a driver training turn for Chris with Jamie as his instructor.  I received a text on Friday evening from Chris, saying that Jamie was standing down & that inspector Irving would be taking his place.  He didn't say as much, but obviously that meant he was to be assessed as a driver.

I checked the weather forecast for Saturday, which turned out to be extremely grim.  I wasn't sure if I should go to Toddington and light up 2807, or stay at home and build an ark.  Wet rails increase the chances of wheel slips, which is not something that you would want to have to contend with on your driving exam.  Incidentally, this would be my fifth time on 2807 in the last six turns.  At 113 years old, she is the oldest running GWR built steam locomotive.  You can't help but admire her, she's a testimony to the soundness of Churchward's original design and of course to Cotswold Steam Preservation LTD who restored her from scrapyard condition to the gleaming machine that she is now.  She has a little over a year left on her boiler ticket now, so will have to stop for a heavy general overhaul late next year.  If you haven't yet managed to visit our railway and ride behind the wonderful 2807, you only have a year or so to do it before she will have to come to what will hopefully be a relatively brief outage from service.

Come Saturday morning, there was some rain as I drove in, but by the time I arrived at Toddington, it had cleared up, the only evidence of precipitation being a rainbow starting somewhere in the general direction of Winchcombe (did anybody in Carriage & Wagon find the pot of gold?)
Rainbow shining out of Foremarke Hall's safety valve bonnet
 Saturday was a two train timetable, with 2807 and Foremarke Hall running. 
Foremarke Hall's crew taking a tea break
 Clive (Foremarke Hall's driver) had the nerve to send me a photo which allegedly showed me in one of those exceedingly rare moments of not actually doing anything. I refute these allegations entirely and suspect that he has recently bought a copy of Photoshop or similar.  I have of course witheld it from publication in this blog... well there has to be some perk of writing this stuff.

It takes rather more of the Scottish coal to do a round trip, than it does the Welsh, so we arranged for a top up before we set off.  Jamie, who had been Chris' driving instructor was around, and he volunteered to drive the digger for us.
Jamie tops up our coal
 As mentioned already, we're still on the Scottish coal, which generates far more smoke than one would like.  I am advised that our supplier of Welsh coal should be able to resume deliveries shortly, so scenes like the one below should soon be a thing of the past.
Just as well the wind was taking the smoke away from us
 It has become something of a tradition recently to order bacon rolls from the buffet car on the Chocolate and Cream rake to start the day, regardless of which train you are on (no griddle available on the maroon rake).  OTC were on the ball and managed to deliver it to us before they set off.
Chris (l) & inspector Irving tucking into breakfast
 Inspector Irving had dropped the hint that Chris' prospects of passing out as a driver would be significantly enhanced should a sizable wedge change hands.  Unfortunately, Chris got the wrong idea.
Wrong kind of wedge!
 Aside from that little faux pas, the morning went perfectly, in fact almost too perfectly.  At Cheltenham Race Course, the Station Master came up to us to pass on a message from one of the passengers who wanted to congratulate the driver on the smooth stops.  This was pretty much unprecedented and I have to admit that I rather uncharitably wondered if it was Jamie who had said that, as I knew he was riding on the cushions to see how it went.  When pressed on the subject later, Jamie denied it, so perhaps Chris' stops really were that impressively smooth. 
Taking water at Cheltenham Race Course
 Inspector Irving had seen enough by the end of one round trip and Chris was now let loose on his own as a fully qualified driver.  At this point Angela, who had cleaned 2807 in the morning joined us on the footplate
Angela operating the ground frame at Broadway...
...coupling 2807 up to the maroon rake...
...and feeding the fire for a bit...
Angela was instructed that there must be no black smoke or blowing off at Winchcombe when we passed Foremarke Hall, she duly obliged, she fired from Broadway to Cheltenham Race Course without any issues with water or pressure.
...and dropping off tokens
 Saul who only passed out on Toddington signal box last week  appears to have taken up residence there, he was back yet again on Saturday.

I noticed that the Permanent Way gang were working on the recently installed set of points in Toddington yard's south headshunt.  Hopefully they will become operational soon.
Permanent Way at work
 Train 1's last trip was taken over by the class 26, D5343, which took over from Foremarke Hall
D5343 at Winchcombe
The star of the show of course was Chris, who was thoroughly enjoying being our most recently qualified driver.
Chris in his element
 All too soon, the day came to an end, we took on water and shunt released the class 26 before heading off for disposal.  In spite of the forecast, the day had remained dry and for the most part sunny, which was welcomed by the footplate crew, as there is nowhere to hide in that cab when running tender first into the rain.
Shunt releasing the class 26
Inspector Irving congratulating Chris at the end of the day
Chris' driving instructor, Jamie, joined in the congratulations as well
 Of course, after the congratulatory handshakes etc, it was back to the usual disposal tasks, such as emptying the ash pan, and then emptying the ash pit.
Jamie & Angela empty the pit of ash
I've fired to drivers on their biennial reassessments on a number of occasions before, but this was the first time that I had been privileged to fire to a driver on their initial assessment.  Many congratulations on a fine achievement Chris.


  1. I am very chuffed to hear that Welsh coal is still available.
    Whilst shopping about for the best deal, it should be noted that we still have lots of different types of coal to choose from. Despite the fact that no UK power stations are burning coal as of now.
    More for us, then, perchance?

  2. Fine and informative blog and a little entertaining

  3. The emails from blogger informing you of a comment left have also dried up on other blogs. Have a look on the blogger help forum. A fix was promised but nothing has changed.
    The page view counter also stopped.
    Also check out the 'spam' section on your blogger summary page. This filters out spam comments, but occasionally also genuine ones.