Monday, 10 June 2019

B1 to the Rescue

Cast your mind back to the Saturday after the gala, the DMLL group were in the final throes of preparing Dinmore Manor for her summer holiday on what used to be known as the Paignton & Dartmouth Steam Railway, but which these days has been re-branded as the "Dartmouth Steam Railway & River Boat Company".  I ended up re-fitting the spark arrester in her smoke box:
Dinmore Manor's spark arrester fitted
 There was also the little job of lifting a selection of spare firebars onto Dinmore Manor's tender:
Neatly stashed alongside the replacement springs that had been there for a while.
 Dinmore Manor also had a booked leak past one of her clack valves, some brute force and ignorance was required to undo the clacks so that the valve could be ground in again.
It really didn't want to budge
Ralph got busy getting a shine on the brass work
Alex made the running plate clean enough to eat your dinner off
And Martin buffed up the safety valve bonnet until he could see his face in it...
...job done!
 Even new-starter, Emily, got roped in to clean Dinmore Manor's motion.
Emily cleaning a connecting rod
Dinmore Manor, ready to go to Paignton, all she needs now is her bucket & spade
By the end of the day, Dinmore Manor looked like she had just emerged from Swindon Works after a heavy general overhaul.

This was the first weekend after the gala, and we had two of our visiting locos out on the red timetable.  Train 1, the Cotswold Express, was hauled by Thompson B1, 1264, and train 2, was hauled by Collett King, 6023, King Edward II.  Yours truly was rostered as the relief fireman for 1264, meaning that I took over after the first round trip.
6023 & 1264 on the pits before starting work for the day
 1264 pulled into Toddington, bang on time at 1264 and I took over from Eleanor as the fireman.  I found not one, but two owner's reps on the footplate, Barney & Jane.
Jane & Barney.
A B1 is the LNER equivalent of a Hall or Black 5, a 4-6-0 mixed traffic engine built in volume.  In comparison with Foremarke Hall, there are a number of strking differences for the fireman.  The first one that you notice long before you get onto the footplate even is that it has a long parallel boiler with a round topped firebox.
Round topped firebox
The belpaire fireboxes and taper barrels on GWR locos are much more forgiving of high water levels and the water levels don't change quite so markedly on changes of gradients or when under heavy braking.  On the B1, keeping the water level nailed at around three quarters of a glass would be a bit more of a challenge.

Upon gaining entry to the cab, the next thing that strikes you is the famed LNER letterbox for firing through.
Letter box in the closed position...
...and latched open, ready for firing.

 I had at least once before fired through one of these things, and with the right kind of shovel it is easier than it looks, it took just a few shovels full to get the hang of it again.  The grate is long and narrrow and slopes from a knuckle about a third of the way in, rather like the Swindon number 1 boiler carried by Foremarke Hall.   I had fetched along my own Bulldog shovel forged in a midland pattern, which was ideal for the task. I'm not sure how other GWSR firemen who chose to use the GWR pattern shovels that had been put on the loco will have fared.

Other departures from GWR practice are of course the presence of 2 water gauges and the blower valve being tucked somewhere inaccessible behind the regulator.  Care had to be taken when using it as several rather hot items were placed nearby as a trap for the unwary.

Paul, hand on the handle and ready to set off.
A feature that I rather liked was the electric lighting, which meant that we had cab illumination for passing through the tunnel and changing the lights at each end of the loco was a case of simply flicking a few switches.
Illuminated water gauge
In Gotherington loop
A feature that 1264 had, that none of our home fleet come equipped with is a holder for a staff.
The staff, securely held and nicely on view
An anomaly common to most LNER locos that I have come across is that the cylinder drain cock lever is located on the fireman's side of the cab.  This is a bizarre state of affairs as only the driver will really want to operate them.  I imagine its a hangover from the days when the LNER switched from right hand drive to left hand drive, I'm sure that somebody out there rather more knowledgable in LNER practice will explain why this is.
Cylinder drain cock lever
The upshot is that the driver has to ask the fireman to operate them whenever he needs to use them.

Needless to say, I had a marvellous day on 1264, I'd certainly welcome her back again.  

The day turned out to be slightly longer than planned.  6023 at this point hadn't had spark guards fitted in her ash pan, the 1st of June was hot and dry and there were a number of small fires reported along the line.  When we arrived back at Toddington for what had been expected to be the last time, we were informed by Mark, the Duty Operations Officer, that 6023 had started a fire in the Broadway section, and once it arrived, we were to head off into section and put the fires out.
Before all that, Mark was curious about the letter box and gave it a try
As it turned out, there were 2 fires to deal with, neither of any real size and quickly dealt with.
Mark beating out a fire...
...then Aaron applied some water.
They'll have to repaint it in fire engine red now.
The local fire brigade will be pleased to know that Karl from the 6023 group turned up that evening to fit the spark guards in 6023's ash pan.  Hopefully there will be no more repeats.  The fitting of spark guards is rather like getting out the BBQ though, it pretty much guarantees that we will have a wet summer.

Last Wednesday, with only 2807 left on shed (419 and 1264 having been sent back to their respective home railways), the Wednesday gang got on with erecting the platforms and ladders for the new lamps in the yard.
Ladder erecting team in action (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
One lamp with platform at the top, awaiting its ladder (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
We don't have the lantern heads to place on the stands.  A pair of new ones will cost £3,000. Should you wish to contribute towards the cost, then please send an email to steam.chairman at  (just replace the " at " with the @ symbol)
Des has been re-wheeled and has trundled up and down the yard again (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
The ballast spreading machine has appeared once more. (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
Your humble scribe's day job took him to Reading all last week, commuting on the train (sadly no longer steam).  Friday was the launch of Didcot Railway Centre's back conversion of 4942 Maindy Hall into Saint class, 2999 Lady of Legend. As I was passing the door (literally) and escaped from work early on Friday, it would have been rude not to call in and support the event, especially as our very own Foremarke Hall was guest of honour.  The weather was far from conducive to a successful launch of a steam locomotive into traffic, in fact the launch threatened to become a sinking, but it all went well in the end.

One of the Churchward Saints (2925, Saint Martin) was converted by Collett to be the first Hall (4900, Saint Martin). Later, Hawksworth modified the Hall's to create the Modified Hall class.  It was appropriate therefore that Didcot lined up Lady of Legend outside their shed with 5900, Hinderton Hall and 6998, Burton Agnes Hall (Modified Hall) to display the lineage from start to finish.
L-R, 2999, 5900, 6998
Lady of Legend in steam
As 6023, King Edward II is with us at the moment, it's not a bad idea to remind ourselves of some of the obstacles that had to be overcome to return her to steam, this being the well known cut through wheel set butchered after a shunting accident in Barry Island scrap yard.
Beyond salvage
A certain prime minister of a few years ago famously once said of herself in a speech "The lady is not for turning".  Well, it appears that in this case at least she was wrong as as Lady of Legend took a few turns on the turntable at Didcot.
The Lady, being turned
A recent gala visitor for us, 1450 was in action too
Foremarke Hall on the demonstration line
7903 joins 5900 & 6998, 2999 passes by on the demonstration line
2999 on the demonstration line
For a while, they even double headed Lady of Legend and Foremarke Hall, which with a rake of just two carriages wasn't strictly necessary, but it looked good anyway.
2999 and 7903 double headed
The sun eventially came out at the end of the day, L-R, 7903, 2999, 5900 & 6998
A few photos came my way from Foremarke Hall's locomotive manager, taken in the even poorer weather in the morning:
L-R, 2999, 5900, 6998 & 7903, (photo courtesy of John Cruxon)
Foremarke Hall being turned (photo courtesy of John Cruxon)
7903 in front of the coal stage, wish we had one of those at Toddington (photo courtesy of John Cruxon)
Moving on from the launch of 2999, Lady of Legend, I have some good news from the 2874 Trust; Eccesiastical Insurance has awarded them £1,000 again as part of their "Movement for Good" campaign.  The 2874 Trust would like to thank everybody who voted for them.

And finally, Chris Eden-Green has released another you-tube video in his "Locomotives in Profile" series.  If you are not familiar with his work, he combines footage of various locomotive classes and gives his personal opinion on how effective they were at what they were designed to do along with historical information. It's all rather more informative than anything that the mainstream tv companies come up with when dealing with heritage railways, yet he still manages to make it interesting.  The reason that I am mentioning it is that this time he has profiled the Thompson B1 class and used some footage shot at Toddington the day before the "Northern Soul" gala started. 
Chris Eden-Green capturing some footage of 1264...
...and speaking to camera
 It's well worth 16 minutes of your time and having to skip over a couple of adverts at the beginning to watch it.  Click on this link to see for yourself.


  1. Another great blog! Wonderful content and photos.
    Especially liked the pics of Lady of Legend at Didcot - any chance of them loaning her to GWsR?
    Regards, Paul.

  2. Wonderful, thanks,

    Powli Wilson

  3. After a very successful Gala, can i make a suggestion for next year?
    it would be totally amazing to have a bumper GWR theme Gala, with the Saint, the Blue King, the New Grange, Foremarke Hall and Dinmore Manor and maybe Pendennis... this would be a truly fantastic lineup on a GWR mainline...

    1. I know relations with Didcot are good, but I'm not sure it quite extends to emptying it of everything steamable! ;-)