Sunday, 18 April 2010

Sunny Sunday Driving Steam at RPMR...

Hi all. Today I was rostered as a Crew Member for the RPMR's standard Sunday afternoon service trains. The weather was great and, after arriving at 11:45am, myself and my younger brother, Ben, proceeded to the track where we found the Member in Charge for the day, Peter, making the early preparations. After we had made up two rakes of coaches, the other crew members arrived and the Class 37 electric loco was soon brought into action. The 37 was soon off shed with the first rake of coaches (3 cars) and, after setting out the signals, the crew proceeded up to the station, "Ryton Halt", to ready themselves for passenger operation, due to begin at 1pm. However, as we were ready early, the first train ran at 12:30pm. I on the other hand was left to prepare the steam loco, a passion of mine, for service. As usual, it was the stalwart Sweet Pea 0-4-0 No499 "John H Owen", one of two owned by CMES. Myself and 499 were soon ready and I coupled her up to the 2nd rake, made up of 4 cars (3 cars + a Guard's car). After setting the road, I reversed the 0-4-0 slowly out onto the Main Line. With the road set back, off we went to the station where there were, incidentally, no passengers waiting. Afterall, it was only 12:40pm! However, this was the 'calm before the storm' as, within 10 minutes, the station was flooded with people and two-train operation was not only helpful, but needed! (We couldn't have managed without it!).
After driving 6-7 trips I decided to take a break and Mark took over driving the steamer. She was running very well, after recent work to the "Little End"s on both sides of the valve gear. The engine now starts off much better and, when you're on the bank, a good bit of "reserve power" is available if required, rather than having to worry about damaging the engine. No499 was also steaming very well and performed beautifully throughout the day. Once Mark had had a few trips, the engine was handed back to me and I drove for another few trips. I then passed the engine over to Kevin who was still squeaky clean after only driving the electric loco. This would never do of course and so he was handed the regulator! The time was now getting towards 4pm (closing time) but the platforms were still a few trains full. The electric had to maintain her service, though we had said that 499 would only do one more run before disposal. For her last trip, 499 had been requested by a bunch of happy paying passengers but, with only 15psi "on the clock" she simply couldn't do the trip. After a few heads had been scratched a solution was found:- give her a push! So, the powerful Co-Co electric loco was coupled to the rear of the train and the journey began. 499 now had 30psi on the clock; enough to hold her own weight at least. I caught up with the engines on the bank, with the camera of course!...
After her last trip, unfortunately aided by her biggest rival (the electric loco!), I took over 499 again for the short run down to the Bendy Beam and Steaming Bay's, where I would dispose of her. Meanwhile, the 'Banking Engine' (the 37) was relegated back to her 3-car service train and continued to do one more trip before the gate was "shut". It was now way passed closing and I had 'blown down' the Sweet Pea, cleaned out her smokebox, fire and grate and swept the tubes. Emma was then on hand to lock up the smokebox and help me clean the engine off. The loco was then ready for bed and the 37 duly arrived so that the coach shunting operation could begin. Once everything was put away, we retired to the Mess Room where we enjoyed a nice hot cuppa' tea to round off the day! The day had been very enjoyable overall and had brought in a healthy amount of funds for the club...fantastic! Thanks to all the crew members today for an enjoyable afternoon and to "John H Owen" herself for 'going easy on me' as I hadn't driven her for 8-9 months! My next outing? Well, next Saturday I'm due to be crewing B1 No1306 "Mayflower" again at Shackerstone...(not enough hours in the day!)...Evening All!...

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