Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Northern Soul

The Cotswold Festival of Steam gala has been and gone and all that remains is the tidying up afterwards.  Here's how it went:

Cast your mind back to the 15th of May, I had a turn out on 4270... and the wood store was bare.  It doesn't take much wood to get 4270's small grate covered in fire, which is just as well, because that's all there was.
The cupboard was bare
 Still, it was an interesting day out with Neil (driving instructor), Steve (trainee driver) and Peter who was 4270's owner's rep.
L-R, Neil in the cab, Steve & Peter.
 It was my first trip out on 4270 for about  year, it was lovely to be reacquainted with her.
4270 ready to depart with the Cotswold Express
The reason that this is interesting, is that on this day, it was announced that Stanway viaduct was closed due to an issue with some fallen masonry.  If you have a steam gala about to start a little over a week later, this isn't exactly the sort of news that you want.  The prospect of having to re-write timetables/signal box diagrams/RSF/crew notes etc was not an appealing one.  Mercifully after an inspection by external consultants on the Friday, it was declared to be cosmetic rather than structural and the viaduct was declared safe to use once more.  You might well have noticed an audible sigh of relief from the gala team.

Moving swiftly along to the 21st, I had been due to fire Foremarke Hall, however her valves had yet to be refitted, so I had 2807 instead.
John with one of Foremarke Hall's valves ready for refitting
This was also the day that 1264 arrived
One of the valves being lifted into position
Dinmore Manor (l) and 2807 ready to commence the day's services
It wasn't just my loco that was changed, the driver, John, is the loco manager for Foremarke Hall and decided to forego most of his turn (only going to Broadway and back) in order to assist with Foremarke Hall.  Clive and later Andy took over the driving.  Three drivers in one day on the same loco must be a record.   

On to Wednesday 22nd, and Mike plus a small team of people were busy erecting 2874's cab for display in the marquee.  The various sheets of steel had been ordered to the sizes specified in the original Swindon drawings and the salvaged brackets etc were offered up to them.  It appears that as far as cabs were concerned, the drawings were more of a suggested guideline rather than mandatory, and some fettling was required to assemble the kit of parts.  Nothing in the world of steam locomotive restoration is ever easy!
Trial fitting of the window plates
A useful thing in his favour was that if Mike wanted something to compare with, there was still the original very wasted cab plates of 2874 available to check with, along with both 2807 and 4270 (which has many similarities in spite of being a tank engine).
Taking measurements from the mortal remains of one of 2874's original cab side sheets
Mike, marking out where some of the new plates will need to be trimmed...
...and then trimming away the excess.
The last visiting engine to arrive, 419 was given a warming fire for a steam test
The recent plea for rags has borne fruit, we had enough for the gala.  Thank you for your donations
At the start of this article I mentioned that the wood store was depleted.  Roger and his band of helpers were on hand to remedy that.    It was also Roger's birthday, but pausing only for some celebratory cake, by the time that they had finished the wood store was jammed to the rafters and all was set for the gala again.
Pallet cutting in full swing
Of course having visiting engines on site meant that there was plenty for the cleaners to be getting on with.
..Richard isn't going anywhere until he's cleaned 1264's buffer beam.
Meanwhile Alex tackles our regal visitor.
Thursday arrived, and things had moved on.  For a start, 2874's cab was starting to look  like a cab, the roof was still missing, but it was definitely starting to take shape
2874's cab
Like all our visitors, 1264 was being weighed...
...and Foremarke Hall was now in steam and ready for a trial run
A gala isn't just about locos, there is much more to do besides that.  Ade, Graham, Paul & myself headed off into the field to the East of Toddington station to mark out the car parking spaces for our visitors to use
(L-r) Ade, Graham & Paul
After that, the trade stands marquee arrived, all we had to do was cone off the space where it was supposed to go, the hire company did the erecting of it.
Marquee starting to arrive.
At this point, everything was going pretty much to plan, we're not used to this.  It couldn't last of course and soon the word came round that 419 which had been rostered on the DMU's path for the day had failed with a hot big end bearing after just one round trip of the line.  I ended up second manning the class 26 diesel which took over the turn whilst 419 was taken back to the shed for examination.
D5343 standing in for 419 at Cheltenham Race Course
Crossing Dinmore Manor at Winchcombe
Neil driving D5343
Once the remainder of 419's shift had been completed, it was time to find out how 419 was.  It turned out that there was some serious scoring on at least one of the phosphor bronze big end bearings, steam oil had been poured in to try and help cool it down enough to get it back to Toddington.  New worsted trimmings were now needed as the originals were gummed up with the thicker grade steam oil.
Paul made some new trimmings
A run out big end bearing whilst away on a gala visit would normally be a show-stopper, but Mark, the owner's rep took the bearing out, measured it up and skimmed it on one of our lathes
Measuring the diameter...
...skimming away the scored bearing surface.
Friday, the last day before the gala starts, the big jobs for today was to get all locos in the right positions, cleaned if not done so already and get warming fires lit.
1264 needed a steam test as well
GWSR press officer, Ian, stopped taking photos and gave a hand cleaning the locos
Ben polishes 1264's smokebox door until he can see his face in it
419 of course needed it's big end bearing completing, in fact as it transpired, the other big end bearing was poorly and in need of attention as well.
Paul, easing down some of the high spots on the newly machined bearing face
Mark the owner's rep who came with 419 worked tirelessly throughout Thursday and Friday to fettle the big end bearings of 419 so that she would be fit for service at the gala.  He was ably assisted by Mike, who had planned to be working on constructing 2874's cab and a small team of other GWSR volunteers, Dan, Sam Paul, Harry and I'm sure others who I can only apologise for not having noted at the time.Without their heroic efforts, 419 wouldn't have run at all. Thanks to all concerned.
Mark (L) and Mike
An aspect of our day to day running that is easy to overlook is that every loco needs a pair of lamps and in most cases a gauge frame lamp as well.  Mike is our resident lamp restorer who undertakes all forms of maintenance on our collection of lamps as and when the need arises.  He was on site on Friday putting a new lens into one of our GWR lamps.
New lens put in its location
...and soldered in by Mike.
Master of the lamps!
In spite of all the time dedicated to getting 419 running, Mike still managed to get some rust inhibiting primer applied to 2874's new cab.
Looking good
With the motion over the indoor pit on road 7 and her chimney just poking out of the shed, 419 was finished off underneath and brought back into steam at the same time.
419 starting to come back to life
Towards the end of the afternoon, it was time for some test runs for 419 to make sure that everything was OK.  Mike, Dan & Mark took it down the line for a while and everything appeared to be OK,   Paul, Mark & myself took it for a further run to Winchcombe and back.
About to set off from Toddington...
...Checking that it's not too hot at Hayles Abbey Halt...
...Paul was clearly enjoying his time on this lovely machine.
Chuffing back to Toddington.
A few round trips had been done, and everything seemed OK.  For the Saturday it was proposed that she should cover light duties only to bed in, so she was put on the short demonstration freight train that would run within station limits at Winchcombe. 

By the time that we got her back to Toddington, the shunt had been finished, all locos were in their respective starting positions, coaled and watered, with warming fires lit. 
Three delightful 4-6-0's, (L-R), Foremarke Hall, King Edward II & 1264
The following morning, the sun was shining on them from the other side, so here they are again:
The different liveries are more obvious from this angle
We have enough crews so that pretty much everybody in the steam loco dept has two turns over the three day bank holiday weekend.  My spare day was the Saturday.  Not all the other departments in the GWSR are so blessed with volunteers (if you're thinking of volunteering, you'd be most welcome) and we had failed to find enough guards to man the brake van of the freight train at Winchcombe. Passed footplate crew were deemed to be suitable to act as guard on the freight train, and so it was that I found myself manning the brake van of the freight train all day.
Andy oiling up 1264
Neil oiling 4270
Ben oiling 2807
Mark taking a well earned cuppa after much cleaning of locos
My plan involved grabbing a line photos of all of the volunteers present in front of 1264 after it pulled off of the pits.  Uncharacteristically, the sun shone, however most people were either too busy to be distracted for a few minutes or just a bit camera shy.
1264 and just a few of those present
As you may know, 1264 is visiting us from the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, which is featuring in a TV series at the moment.  The owner's reps, Mark and Emma have only just got married and feature quite heavily in the TV series.
Mark & Emma, honeymooning at Toddington
All change, 35006 & 1264 head for siding 1, Dinmore Manor heads for a newly vacant pit
Chris looking relaxed on King Edward II
On galas, each day has an appointed Running Shed Foreman (RSF) whose task it is to make sure that the crews have arrived and are prepping their locos on time, that the cleaners have stacked up fresh lighting up wood by each loco and crucially that each loco has enough pressure at the right time to move from where it is onto a pit and from there onto siding 1 for eventual transfer onto the running lines under the control of the signal man.  Getting it wrong exposes you to the danger of locos leaving for siding 1 in the wrong order (that way chaos lies) or not leaving enough time for oiling up underneath for other locos if they hog a pit for too long and causing the timetable to slip.
Ben (L) conferring with John (RSF)
4270 coming round for a pit, exactly on time
Peter, cleaning 4270 now that it is on a pit
Of course, there has to be time in the busy schedule for that all important cuppa,
L-R, Mike, Mark, Andrew & Sean
After her test run the afternoon before, 419 had spent the night on her own on the old ash pit.  Needless to say, she wasn't overlooked by the cleaners.
David gives 419 some TLC.
There is only room on the footplate of 419 for three people at best, so I blagged a ride with Steve & Tom down to Winchcombe on the footplate of Dinmore Manor (which was now covering what had been 419's path on the 5 coach rake). Before we could set off, 35006 was due to make an empty coaching stock (ECS) move to Cheltenham Race Course and Alex (the same Alex that spends so long diligently cleaning our locos) was having a lesson in signalling.  She used to do this on the big railway, so should pick it up again quite quickly.
Alex in Toddington signal box
I hope she won't mind me saying this, but I hardly recognised her in her signal man  woman person outfit (I'm afraid I forgot to ask her what she would prefer to be known as).  I'm much more used to seeing her in grubby overalls like the rest of us in the steam loco dept.
...preparing to hand over the token to Dan on 35006...
Job done, token handed over.
At Winchcombe, a short rake including the recently restored LMS brake van, a couple of covered wagons and a china clay hood were waiting for us.  It was rather instructive to see the world from the guards point of view, to perform the brake test and inform the crew that they had 4 vehicles totalling 57 tons.  Note that we have a partially fitted freight head code on 419, the brake van in this case was through piped only whilst the rest were vacuum braked.
419 on the freight train
Alex isn't the only member of the steam loco dept to moonlight elsewhere, Andy also works in Carriage and Wagon, the wagon section of which had restored the freight train vehicles that we had.  Andy is well versed in the steam loco depts love of tea.
Thanks Andy
John was the driver of 419 on Saturday for the first shift, this brought back memories for him as 52 years ago he remembered seeing it waiting in the scrap line, not imagining for one moment that all these years later he'd be driving it in an immaculately restored condition.
Whilst the LMS brake van and covered wagon were quite appropriate for 419 (OK, give or take 419's pre-grouping livery), I'd be a bit surprised if it had ever worked a china clay wagon marked "Return to Fowey" during its pre-heritage era existence.  In fairness, the freight train had been expected to be worked by our home fleet ex-GWR locos up until the day before.
I doubt 419 got within 300 miles of Fowey in her working life
Clive chatting with one of our visitors
419 and the freight train in Winchcombe station
Dinmore Manor passes the brake van with the stock that 419 should have had
Later on, Ben and Steve took over as 419's crew
Mark (SRPS rep) and Ben found an unusual seat at Winchcombe
1264 passing 419, they quite possibly met in a previous existence.
The GWSR has a student volunteer capturing video footage of our various events.  I'm not entirely sure where they will appear on line, I dare say some kind soul will point me in the right direction once they read this.  He got some footage of 2807 from the brake van
The view from the veranda
...and Dinmore Manor too
The line side clearance team were once again hard at work on the approach to Chicken Curve, when they eventually stopped for lunch, they took a moment to admire 35006 as it went past.
35006 arriving at Winchcombe.
One of the highlights of the gala for me, was the double heading of Foremarke Hall and King Edward II.  I took along my long lens to obtain this photo from the brake van.
A marvellous site.
4270 is highly unlikely to have met 419 before
Sam obviously had a great first gala as a fireman
Back at Toddington, there was a good turn out of people to assist with disposal of the returning locos. Until the locos arrived of course, there was plenty of tea to be drunk.
The GWSR Olympic tea drinking team in a high altitude training session
The new cab for 2874 hadn't progressed as far as Mike would have liked, a top coat of paint and the roof fitted were in his plan, but the diversion onto getting 419 sorted had taken priority and so it remained in primer.  There are still many holes to be drilled and bolted, windows fitted etc, but it is still looking remarkably good.
It was even sporting an original cab side number plate...
...and 1909 caution notice.
Inside the marquee, amongst the loco owning groups was a new stand for 76077.  Their website is now up and running and shareholders are being sought.
Ian (L) and Richard, drumming up support for 76077
In a late change to the plan, 419 ended her day on her original stock.  Unfortunately, once back at Winchcombe with the ECS move at the end of the day, her big end bearings ran very hot again and it was decided that she would only work the freight train for the remainder of the gala.
419 setting off from Toddington with the ECS move to Winchcombe
Sunday was the second day of the gala, this was not a "rest day", but an actual firing day.  My start was to take Dinmore Manor (double headed with 4270) to Cheltenham Race Course for the "Driver for a tenner", until early afternoon, when the loco changed to 4270.  Later I would fire 35006 to Broadway, then get dragged back to Toddington where my day would end.
419 has a bit of extra bright work to keep polished that you don't find on GWR locos
We fetched our rake from the North siding.
The view over Dinmore Manor and 4270 towards Toddington station
Recent changes to the rule book now have the crew of the pilot loco carrying the token/staff rather than the train loco.  My job was merely to observe and make sure that it happened as it should have.
Token exchange at Gotherington
The driver for a tenner session went well, some of the participants had some previous experience and knew what to do, others didn't and needed to be shown.  Regardless, all went away with big grins on their faces.
A driver for a tenner participant
Whilst the regular service trains were occupying the platform, we had to hide ourselves a bit further down towards Hunting Butts tunnel than usual to allow them to run round.
1264 running round her train
Trains came and went, but there was no food available at Cheltenham Race Course station.  We hatched a cunning plan, wait for rake 1 with the griddle on it to appear and send Tom (the cleaner waiting on the platform to collect the participants money) off to buy bacon rolls.  What we had planned as being a late breakfast transpired to be lunch by the time that rake 1 eventually reappeared.
Tom with late breakfast lunch
Somewhere along the way, Mark & Mike appeared with 4270 and we switched locos  I was pleased to note that the fire that was handed over to me had been run down perfectly for the light work of running up and down in the platform.
Steve (R) supervises one of the participants...
...and finally, once no more participants were to be found, Tom had a go.
Eventually, 35006 hoved into view and we swapped locos once more for the run up to Broadway.  This time, we had a footplate passenger accompanied by Luke.
Luke (L) and footplate passenger
Bill had been the signal man at Cheltenham Race Course when we arrived, he spent the morning there and was relieved at lunch time.  I was a bit surprised to discover that he had moved up the line to Gotherington signal box for the afternoon shift.
Bill exchanges tokens with the crew of 2807 at Gotherington
Something else attached to the rear of our train at Toddington, we dragged it to Broadway, then it dragged us back to Toddington.
Nothing much to do, just keep the fire covering the grate and watch the world go by
Even back at Toddington, there was a keen disposal crew to tackle emptying the ash pan for us.

That brings us on to Monday, two round trips for me, the first on King Edward II and the second on Foremarke Hall.  There was a slight panic when I turned up, as a family crisis had left us without an RSF.  That didn't stop things happening, but locos were still on pits when they should have been moved etc.  I happened to have a set of RSF notes for the day and volunteered recently retired fireman Graham to cover the role, which left me free to light up King Edward II.  Not only did he make a good job of it, but he quite enjoyed it and asked to be rostered for it next year.
Graham making sense of the RSF notes
King Edward II hadn't been coaled or had its ash pan emptied on Sunday, so Tom very kindly got on with emptying the ash pan for me first thing. 
Tom ashing out King Edward II
I should also add, that one of the fire bars at the back had partially dropped into the grate, thanks too to my driver Ben, who quickly nipped into the firebox and replaced it.
Ben coals King Edward II
The timetable saw us being dragged on the tail of a train to Broadway before pulling it back to Toddington, whereupon Foremarke Hall attached to the front of us and we went double headed down to Cheltenham Race Course.  Back in the day, double heading would usually have been done with both locos running chimney first and the cab would protect the inside loco's crew from the worst of the pilot engine's exhaust. Not so on this occasion.
Foremarke Hall's exhaust came straight back st us.
At Cheltenham Race Course, we took Chris (guard) on the run round, then dropped him off on the platform just short of the train so that he could call us on.  Both locos ran round separately, so that Foremarke Hall remained the pilot loco.
L-R, Ben, Chris & Harry
Double headed and about to set off back up the line
For reasons that eluded me, John, Ben & Steve actually wanted their pictures taking to commemorate the occasion.  This came as something of a surprise to me as most people in the steam loco dept turn and run as soon as I get my camera out.  I feared some kind of trick was about to be played on me, but as it turned out they really did want their picture taking in front of Foremarke Hall and King Edward II
(L-R) John, Steve & Ben
The photo stop at Gotherington was accompanied by cake provide by Savita (who lives in the station building)
(L-R) Ben, Tom & Harry enjoying their cake
Foremarke Hall's crew had cake too of course. Unaccountably, Steve forgot about his for a while, I noticed him scoffing his a bit further down the line.
How could he possibly have forgotten his cake?
On arrival at Toddington, Phil was a bit concerned that we might run out of steam and very kindly fetched Steve and myself a water sample container full of steam obtained from the kettle in the mess coach. 
If only he'd fetched us a cup of tea instead!
At this point, we swapped locos with Foremarke Hall's crew and hid ourselves away in the North siding for a while.
Dinmore Manor passed by...
...with Eleanor & Callum on board
Then King Edward II set off to Broadway without us.
We then hung around in the parlour road at Toddington for a while, eventually tagging onto the tail of another train and being dragged back Broadway.  Once we were there, we picked up a footplate passenger, who is the father of Bryony, a trainee guard.
The obligatory pose for the camera
Eventually, back at Toddington, we found a disposal crew, poised to spring into action and empty Foremarke Hall's ash pan.
Ready for action
The "Cotswold Festival of Steam" gala, although it has steam in the name is patently a team effort in which every department in the railway plays its own part.  Without the contributions of so many people across the entire GWSR it could not have happened.  To those who volunteered or helped in any capacity thank you.  Thank you as well to the many visitors who paid to come, without you we couldn't have afforded to do it. I hope all of you, visitor or volunteer alike had an enjoyable time at the gala.

And finally, in the highly unlikely event that you managed to get this far down the blog, the Bristol Model Railway show took place in early May, both the GWSR and 2874 group had stands.  I thought I'd finish with this amusing photo of some of the people who largely help out behind the scenes, but without whom....
Martin getting the bunny rabbit ears treatment from both David & Keith on the 2874 stand