Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Happy New Year

Even in the Christmas holiday season, nothing is ever easy when it comes to operating steam locos. 35006 popped a gasket on her rear injector delivery pipe and had to be failed on Christmas Eve.
The failed gasket
 Mike & Steve removed the delivery pipe, trued up the faces and annealed the pipe.  Apparently there shouldn't have been a gasket in there anyway.
Mike (l) & Steve, annealing the delivery pipe
Mating faces lapped in
 One successful steam test later, 35006 was back in traffic and ready to run again on the day before the mixed traffic gala.

An item noted on the same day that had eluded me hitherto, is that at the back of the shed, there is a nice shiny new backhead for a Swindon number 1 boiler.  There are a lot of candidate locos on our line that it could be for (7903, 3850 or 2874 for instance), but in fact it is for 2807 in anticipation of her heavy general overhaul to come at the end of 2019.
2807's new backhead.

 As mentioned in the last blog post, the DMU has been withdrawn from traffic for a while, to permit the change of a roller bearing that is giving up the ghost.  That left a hole in the timetable on several days between Christmas & New Year.  On the 27th, one of the diesels hauled a rake of coaches on the DMU's path.  For the 28th & 31st however, the timetable was changed from a blue (1 x steam & 1 x DMU) to a purple (2 x steam).  This of course meant that extra crews needed to be allocated in a hurry.   I ended up firing Foremarke Hall on the 28th at rather short notice. This was one of those wheels of Karma things, as I had helped John clear the ash pan the day before, which made my life considerably easier when it came to prepping the loco in the morning.
Having some water space to play with would have been nice though.
 The mess coach is usually a fairly unlikely source of subject matter for a blog post, and the two changing rooms therein even less so. People are not supposed to leave their overalls in the grubby changing room overnight (widely flouted) and not to wear them at all in the "clean" changing room.  I was struck by the flagrant disregard by one of our members regarding taking overalls into the "clean" changing room, if you are going to do it, then leaving overalls with your name printed on them is probably not a good idea.
It amused me anyway.
 The Santa Specials didn't go behind steam up as far as Broadway, so this was the first time that I had been up there for a few months.
Waiting for 35006 to head off to CRC, before we could aim for Broadway...
...note the nice new aqueduct...
...and this is one of a number of new signal posts
 I believe that S&T had been testing a few of the signals the day before.  There is still much to do before the signal box, points & signals are ready for use, and even then, we'll need to train enough signal men to use it (as yet, we have no signal women, but don't let that put you off if you want to apply). 
We'll still be running round the hard way for a while longer.
The cleaner, Matthew getting in some shovelling practice
 Aside from the short notice of assembling a crew, it was looking like being a fairly normal day with nothing much happening out of the ordinary, when suddenly, somewhere in the vicinity of Bishops Cleeve there was a rather loud bang followed by an unhappy sound of escaping steam.  Words such as "Oh dear, what on earth could that be?" were said.  It was quickly established that shutting off the steam heat caused the noise to abate, and a quick check at CRC revealed that the steam heat connector between the loco & tender had split.
Steam where steam should not be
The white scar on the pipe tells its own tale
 There wasn't much that we could do about that I'm afraid, and so after less than one round trip we had to call it a day on the steam heat.  Steve (driver) phoned back to the Duty Ops Officer and requested that a new pipe be made available.  Sure enough one was to be found in the mess coach when we got back at the end of the day and John turned up long before dawn on the 29th to fit it before the mixed traffic gala started.
Steve polishes off the last of his Yule log
 In spite of the lovely late afternoon sunshine, there were no photographers about, a shame really as I'm sure that it would have been worth their while.
Late sun at Gotherington
Crossing 35006  at Winchcombe
Steve cranks the starting handle opens the ash pan doors
Back again today (New Year's Day) for my first turn of 2019/last turn of the 2018 season. I had the prep turn on a green timetable, arrive 05:30, prep both 7903 & 35006, then crew 7903 for one round trip of the line. There is an element of confusion at the moment regarding ashing out.   We are due to switch to ashing out in the mornings in the new season, however many crews have already given up on evening disposals.  Bearing that in mind, and that Foremarke Hall is much easier to do when it is cold, I elected to turn up half an hour earlier than the suggested time to give me more opportunity to ash out if it proved to be necessary.  As I suspected, there was a message on the notice board letting me know that 7903 needed a full disposal before the day's work.  Just as well I had allowed for that.  Roger, the king of the wood store had calculated exactly how much wood was going to be required for lighting the locos up and had cut no more than that at all.  If we'd had to fire up one more loco, we'd have had to break up and burn the wood store itself.
The cupboard was bare
 Lighting up two locos is a bit of a chore, especially when one of them needs ashing out.  I wasn't exactly distraught when Steve (cleaner) suggested that I supervise him lighting up 35006.  He did a pretty good job, completing all the safety checks, nipping up a weeping gauge glass and getting it to a sensible pressure to hand over to the day crew.
Steve launching one of the last few bits of lighting up wood onto the fire
He seems to have found a bit of the old Scottish coal in there
Meanwhile, back on Foremarke Hall, the replacement steam heat pipe was looking good
John was the prep driver, seen here oiling up 35006
The previous day's crew hadn't left us much by way of coal... and I knew that under that thin veneer of lumps, was a mountain of dust.
Not much to go on.
 To be honest, there was plenty enough for me to do my one round trip, but the afternoon crew would definitely be wanting more.  One more bucket full was forthcoming.

Heading off into the shed to collect the lamps, I was a little surprised to find that one of 35006's lamps was still lit.  They are capable of spontaneously reigniting shortly after being blown out it seems.  This also explains why we no longer keep the lamps in the oil store.
The Olympic flame?
Steve drops off the token.
Crossing the class 37 at Winchcombe
Steve has a go at firing
We too had a bucket full of Scottish coal, the smoke is the give away
They must have been burning Welsh coal in this hut at Gotherington
 All too soon, our one round trip was done, and it was time to say goodbye to Foremarke Hall as it scurried off down the line with its afternoon crew.
Foremarke Hall sets off into the New Year
 Well that's the 2018 season done and dusted, we opened the line as far as Broadway and our passenger numbers have increased considerably.  2019 beckons, but before the new operating season can begin, we have to put all of our locos through their winter maintenance programmes. As a department, the closed season is our busy season.

Happy New Year!