Sunday, 4 April 2010

Easter at Shackerstone Post 2..."Mayflower" Returns...

Hi all. Today started early...very early; 4:37am to be exact! Sleeping on site, it was one of those nights where I couldn't sleep so, at 4:37am, with my alarm set for 5:20am, I gave up. So, there I was, standing in the pitch black on the steps of the Sleeper Coach awaiting the Sign On time. I didn't have my Shed Key's so had to await the crew. Under the blanket of darkness I slowly made my way, bag in hand, to the shed where the brightness of the floodlights was a welcome haven. By 5:20am I heard footsteps and sure enough, it was Marie, the day's rostered Driver. As we went into the Shed, the ever-present Railway Cat, "Morris", appeared through the gloom; wanting his stomach refilled by all accounts. Marie fed "Morris" whilst I had a look on the footplate of 1306. There was 50psi already on the clock (enough to move the engine under her own steam) and at least 2/3 of water in the glass; Fantastic! Marie's husband, George, was also on site and headed off to start the Class 02 shunter which would be used to remove "Blue Circle" and "Sir Gomer" from the shed before 1306 could move. The day's Fireman, Adrian, soon arrived and I proceeded to the Signalbox to work the Levers, setting the road for the Class 02. Before long, the two engines were out of the shed and up on the Outside Pit. 1306 was duly lit up with lots of wood and parrafin rags, beginning to add to the already existent 50psi. After cleaning, oiling, pressure-building etc, we were soon "off shed"...
First run of the day, having come "off shed" at 10:20am, would be the 10:50am (first train). However, as "Mayflower" had been stored since her last run on December 20th, we needed to give her a little "airing out" to release all the water trapped in the cylinders, superheater headers, piping etc. Therefore, we took a short light-engine run to Congerstone and back (just under a mile). With all in order, 1306 buffered up to the front of the 5-coach train. Once coupled, we began Steam Heating and carried out a Vacuum Brake test before departing, a few minutes down, for Shenton. With her voice echoing around the cutting, the B1 tore out of Shackerstone and over the bank towards Hedley's. We had a good run and it wasn't long before Shenton loomed. 1306 was quickly uncoupled, ran round and we departed for Shackerstone again. Today, trains were also calling at Market Bosworth so that passengers could alight to see the progress being made. Therefore, we had to take this stop on each run into account, further knocking extra minutes onto our time. I fired the 2nd round trip, with varying success, and it wasn't long before our lunch break (35 minutes) loomed. My family then arrived for a ride on the train, and to see me on the B1. My mum in particular gratefully accepted a ride on the footplate, thanks to "Mayflower"s kind owner! With mum back on the coaches, it was time to clamber onto the engine and depart at 1:40pm for Shenton...
With me firing the outward run, I didn't need my Jacket as it was just so "hot" on the footplate...same old! The B1 steamed well however, and the injectors, as usual, picked up beautifully. I did however make the old girl "blow off" five times on the run to Shenton...not really good for my social standing! (Five pints that'll cost, Tut!). With the warm sun still shining we pulled into the very busy platform at the terminus, duly uncoupling 1306. Once I'd handed the Single Line Token to the Guard, my family came up to me to say a temporary goodbye. They then headed off for a walk around Ambion Hill and the Bosworth Battlefield Country Park. In the meantime, we would return to Shack, fetching them again on the next journey. After coupling 1306 back up and changing the lamps, I made my way back up onto the footplate ready for our belated 2:15pm departure. Adrian fired on the return run, allowing me take the Fireman's Seat and enjoy the views across the Leicestershire countryside. I also enjoyed a very nice Pastie, "cocked" in foil on top of one of 1306's injectors! (Traditional Fare...thanks Marie!). Once back at Shack, we ran round again quickly before hitching up to the front of the train once more. This time, Adrian would drive, leaving Marie a chance to fire. As we departed, I collected the Token from the Signalman and off we went again up the Bank. After another spirited run, we arrived at Shenton again where my family awaited us, along with many other happy passengers and spectactors. With everyone aboard and 1306 run round, we took our penultimate run back to Shackerstone with me firing again. Once there, I left the footplate for a few minutes for a chat...
Throughout the day, 9449 "Blue Circle" had been chugging around the Shackerstone Station once again. She proves a particular favourite amongst visitors, even though she isn't large enough to pull the main train. Her attraction is obvious with glistening paintwork, numorous moving parts and Victorian appearence. However, though she may look very vintage, she is in fact "younger than her years". "The Blue Circle" was built in 1926 to a design of the 1860s. She was, when built, "out of date" already but the Blue Circle Cement Company staff wanted an engine that resembled the quality and reliability of their other loco(s). Therefore, No9449 was constructed especially! Today, privately owned and very well-preserved, the engine is, as I said, a firm favourite with the young and old alike, not to mention her 'celebrity' status as "Fergus" on Thomas Day's. Anyway, with 9449 having passed us following our run-round, it was time to reboard the cab of 1306 ready for a final run of the day; the 4:20pm train. The Aveiling is spotted below, backing back down into Platform 1 from the sheds...
After saying my goodbye's to the family, the camera's were out the moment I got back up onto the footplate. (Thanks everyone...can't take them anywhere!). This then resulted in various poses and therefore, here is a photo of myself in the Fireman's Seat on 1306 with Driver Marie Saville standing alongside in the doorway...
Waving goodbye to the family, they left just as we got the "Right Away" for Shenton. With Marie driving again, I was firing. After building the back up in the the fire, I concentrated on the middle of the grate as we chugged up past the engine shed. With 3/4 of a glass of water in the boiler the fire was looking well, with a few holes still to cover near the front as the engine accelerated. 1306 held the pressure well (thank goodness!) and we soon slowed for Hedley's, with me holding the engine's pressure down with the Fireman's Side injector. I continued to fire to the terminus and, once there, I checked in the box. Alot of the back and centre of the fire had thinned greatly, though there was a bit of a mound on the front end near the Tubeplate. (The engine does have a tendancy for everything in the middle of the grate to slide forward...partly my fault as well though!). Once run-round, 1306 was ready for the final run of the day back to Shackerstone. This time, Adrian was firing again, allowing me another break. With the sun setting and the temperature becoming chilly, the warmth of the loco was a very welcome feeling indeed! Once back at Shackerstone we were soon uncoupled and 1306 chugged quietly through Platform 1 before navigating the points into the South Yard and up towards the shed. "Mayflower" was then 'put to bed' and I thanked my crew for another very good day on the engine, as well as her owner! Thank you all, and 1306! It was then time to wash and 'sign off' before, yes, dinner, and another night on site. Thanks All. Evening...

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