Wednesday, 10 July 2019

All the Benefits of a Convertible Car With the Heater Stuck on Full Blast

A recent conversation with Tony (Broadway Station Master and retired steam driver) revealed that he too knew Dennis Herbert who had been coaxed into joining Mike on the footplate of 6023, King Edward II as was mentioned in my last blog post.  He also mentioned a book that Dennis had written of his experiences on the footplate at Tyseley and later on Saltley, which spanned pretty much the entire BR era.  He also said that it was out of print and you couldn't find a copy on Amazon.  I regarded that as a challenge to my internet navigating skills and fairly swiftly managed to locate a copy in a bookshop in Bath.  Monies were exchanged and the book duly arrived in the post a few days later.  The tardiness of this blog post can in no small part be attributed to the fact that I have spent what little free time I have had lately reading this book rather than chained to my laptop.  If you can manage to track down a copy, I can thoroughly recommend it.  There are a number of references to journeys along our line, as well as to Colin Jacks who was a driver on the GWSR in our formative years.  Having recently had a turn on a B1 just after the gala, the reference to Dennis' one and only trip on one, having taken it over from another crew and failing to locate the drain cock lever to shut the cylinder drain cocks made for amusing reading. 
Best of luck in finding your own copy
You may have noticed lately that it has been rather warm. I have been out and about on the footplate on some of the hotter days.  If you cast your mind back to the 29th of June, I was firing Foremarke Hall.  This was also the hottest day of the year so far, I overheard the guard say that he had recorded 33 degrees Centigrade in the guard van.  The footplate doesn't have a thermometer, however I have no doubt at all that with the fire going, the footplate temperature was well in excess of that.  Suffice it to say that the brass monkeys were nowhere to be seen, on this occasion they were concerned that the heat would melt away the parts that they hold most dear!

We weren't the only ones out and about who had been foolish enough to light a fire, the lineside clearance team were at it too:
Lineside clearance team...
...and their fire
 You'll note that the lineside clearance team had the good sense to work on the other side of the track from their fire.  Unfortunately I needed to be rather closer to mine.

I have no idea who the chap is in the photo below, but for the first few trips, every time we appeared at Winchcombe, he appeared on the platform with 3 bottles of cold water for the crew.  I can't possibly stress enough how welcome this was.  He wasn't there for the last trip, and we had to resort to dropping Tom (cleaner) off at Toddington signal box to fetch us more water before we departed for Broadway.
Thank you very much, it was highly appreciated
 Even the C&W volunteers had erected a parasol to protect them during their tea breaks.
Looks like a nice spot to have a brew!
 Such was my desire to get as far away from the source of the heat as possible, I let Tom (cleaner) do much of the firing.  He's right handed, but confusingly shovels left handed.
He tried right handed to start with...
...but did rather better when he switched sides.
 We do have one driver who has threatened to pinch the bottom of any fireman who dares to fire from his side of the cab, I gave Tom some advice on how to use the shovel to change that driver's mind should this actually happen.

The drainage team were hard at work in the blazing heat too
Somewhere there is a photo of me taking a photo of them, taking a photo....
I was also out on 2807 last Thursday on a blue timetable, i.e. we were the only steam train running.  Some wag in the GWSR's official social media dept advertised the day as "With GWR 2-8-0 Heavy Goods engine 2807 on train 1 today, the crew get all the benefits of a convertible car with the heater stuck on full blast"  It was an annoyingly accurate description.  On this occasion there was no kind soul at Winchcombe dispensing cold water to thirsty crews, we had to make frequent trips to the buffet car to order tea (and yes, cake too).

For my sins, I was back on the footplate again on Friday, this time for a footplate experience day with Foremarke Hall.  This was more like the day before, except that we didn't have the benefits of a convertible car.
Mark (driver) prepping Foremarke Hall
 Before we got to the point where we started the footplate experience day, Mark noticed that a couple of the glasses on the hydrostatic lubricator had gummed up with cylinder oil.  What followed next was an impromptu lesson on how to clear them, Mark showed me how to do one, and I then did the other.  Useful stuff to get to learn.
Mark cleaning the first gummed up glass on the lubricator
 It was a silver footplate experience day, so I think that meant we had 12 participants in total.  I have occasionally been curious as to who reads this blog, as far as I can make out it is mostly the spouses of members of the steam loco dept keen to find out what their other halves have been up to, or members of the steam loco dept keen to spot any error that I may have made. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the pair below (a father-in-law & son-in-law) were both readers.
John (L) & David

I suggested to Mrs Blogger that we might book a place on a footplate experience course for my father-in-law.  She suggested that it probably wouldn't be the ideal gift for him, but that perhaps it would be better suited to my mother-in-law. 
(L-R), Brian, Paul and Mark (driver)
The day relies not just on footplate crew & sticky buns, but a small number of volunteers who come along to assist in various ways.

Richard operating the water column at Cheltenham Race Course
Mark clinging on to the delivery hose
 Coming up the hill from Cheltenham Race Course is the most interesting bit as far as the firing is concerned, one of the participants managed to keep the needle just shy of the red line and the water at the top of the glass. 
Better than many of our firemen manage
 The GWSR volunteers who help out on these events usually take it in turns to accompany us on the run round.
My Wednesday correspondent, Peter was one
There is a working timetable published for the crew showing the the train movements and times, albeit the times are suggested rather than cast in tablets of stone.  I had taken the precaution of printing one and taking it with me.  It clearly showed that after lunch at Toddington, the train was to set off again at 14:00.   I had allowed the fire to run down as we arrived at Toddington at 12:45 and Foremarke Hall sat as good as gold in the platform.  At 13:20, I had just sprinkled a few lumps on the what was left of the fire at the back of the grate to keep it alive.  I was more than a bit surprised when the next two participants arrived at the footplate having been told that we were due to start again straight away.  I had to build up and push forward the fire in rather a hurry.

Meanwhile, there was much noise on the platform, some of the pine trees were being chopped down and mulched
Chopping down trees...
...converting them to sawdust
I'm not a fan of chopping trees down, but when you looked at the ones they had cut down, the innards had been hollowed out by either age or disease and I daresay that they presented a hazard.
As hollow as an election promise!

The footplate experience courses are all sold out for the rest of this year I'm afraid.  Should you wish to sign up for one next year, all the information that you'll need will found by clicking on this link.

The preparations for the new mess building are ongoing.  The area to the south the goods shed will be cleared shortly.  The new container with a side entrance functioning as the oil store will be moved to where the existing oil store is.
The side entrance in use (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
The old oil store container will become the new wood store, and the old GWR fruit wagon body that was the old wood store has now gone to Lydney on the Dean Forest Railway to be used as a S&T store.
The old wood store departing for Lydney (photo courtesy of Mark Young)

The preparations for the big move around included a big shunt, that amongst other things saw 2874 to and fro around the yard
2874 being shunted (photo courtesy of Martin Ginger)
And finally, a number of members of the Steam Loco Dept, including its current head have received long service awards.
Finance director, Richard W (L) gives John C his 15 year long service award.
John C in his capacity as head of dept, in turn handed out long service awards to Steve B, John H and Mark Y.  Thanks to all of you for a combined 60 years of contributing to the GWSR in general and the Steam Loco Dept in particular.


  1. The Good Samaritan was Peter Grove of RCS

  2. The heat was bad enough working in the garden down here in Cornwall (where we are more likely to see rain than sunshine). So it must have been horrendous on the footplate.
    As I said recently to an ex St Blazey fireman, you never see a fat fireman in pictures, only drivers!!
    Regards, Paul.

  3. Thank you for a super and enjoyable blog, i always read them

  4. Hi you block is very good and I have read it for the last two years.
    Stephen Smith
    South Africa
    Ex Tewkesbury

  5. As you were wondering who reads your blog...I'm a newly-volunteered cleaner on the NNR. Your blog is highly entertaining and taught me what to expect!

  6. Some of my own experiences, few as they are (at the moment), are here:

  7. Intriguing thing - searching for that illusive book. I met 2 people last year who had spent four months trying to track down a manual for the Vickers Supermarine Spitfire.

    It took me ten minutes to bring one such to light on the Internet!

    Not everything negative exists therein.

  8. What many people fail to realise is that trees get life expired too! Better to remove and replant. The consequences of leaving decayed and dying trees standing in public places is too expansive to think about - ask the National Trust!