Saturday, 1 May 2010

Thomas At Shackerstone Day 3: Thomas' HUGE 65th Anniversary Party!!...

Hi all. Just before I start, the pictures in this post were not taken on the day...I had no time, we were just SO busy! Today started at 4:15am, I dragged myself out of the Sleeper and down the steps into the darkness. Just then, I heard rumblings on the driveway and, sure enough, Carl and Craig (the Martin Brothers) arrived to help sort "Thomas" out. After greeting eachother we proceeded to the Pit where the Jinty was waiting the gloom. After the necessary checks, I cleaned the grate using the rake. Alot of the ash fell through into the ashpan and so I soon I could begin coaling the grate. After a good few shovelfulls had been placed around the box I threw a well sized pile of wood on the top. With 2/3 of a glass of water in the boiler, I could now light the engine up. With a few rags on the shovel I used diesel (though with some water in so it wasn't that good an igniter!) to give me some burning fuel. I then lit the rags and waited for them to take hold. Once they were burning brightly I tossed them into the centre of the firebox. As these weren't much good (due to the wet diesel), we tried some parrafin rags and a few of these were then spaced around the box. This certainly made the fire "get going" and the 3F was soon 'singing' in the early morning light, whilst we watched carefully over a cup of hot Coffee! Driver Eddie Jones (also a member at CMES, like me) soon arrived and began oiling the locomotive round whilst me and Craig began the cleaning. The fire had now taken a very good hold and black smoke was pouring from the chimney. With 20psi on the clock, I cracked the blower and let the engine simmer (with just enough draft to keep the smoke out of the cab) with the doors open and the 'flap' up. This kept the engine quiet but also slowly warming...
The passed Fireman for the day, Mic, soon arrived and we all enjoyed another hot cup of Coffee. Behind, "Fergus" had been being prepared as well and was soon ticking over as the sun began to show its face. Myself and Craig soon finished the cleaning whilst Mic had a go at the cab brasses and instruments. Eddie on the other hand was busy sorting out one of the biggest pains about a Jinty, the Hydrostatic lurbicator! (Why can't they just put Mechanical's on?!). Elsewhere, "Mayflower" (as "Henry") was being prepared by Neil, Adrian and Danny outside the shed in the running yard, around the corner from the preparation yard where we were. So, "what is the 65th event?" you may ask. Well, 2010 see's the stories written by the Rev.W.Awdry taking their 65th year and what better way to celebrate it than to give his most famous creation, "Thomas the Tank Engine", a HUGE Birthday Party?! So thats what we did?! Shackerstone, along with a few other railways (one from each region), was chosen to hold one such event. It had been 2 years in the making and was one day only; Today! The event was a complete SELLOUT(!) with tickets (£12 each) having to be booked in advance for allocated seating on each of the 6 main trains of the day. Even the final train, on which children could enjoy "Tea on Thomas" (£16 each) was also fully booked! The passenger numbers were amazing!...
By 8:15am "Thomas" was ready, with 130psi on the clock and simmering nicely with more than enough water in the boiler. With some time to spare, I headed off down to the station and saw no end of proceedings still taking place ready for the huge Grand Opening Ceremony (including a Silver Band and a ribbon for Thomas to break through!) at 9:30am. I was then given a Radio with which we would be ordered about by the 'Powers Above' throughout the day. There was simply no margin for error whatsoever. Having returned to the shed I changed into my clean overalls (including clean shirt, tie, drivers jacket, bib and brace etc...had to be very smart today!) before enjoying yet another Coffee (we needed it to keep going!). By 9:10am all three of us (Mic, Eddie and Me) were waiting on the footplate for orders. We were 'ready and waiting'! The Signalman (Phil) was also on pins, worrying that something would go wrong, though we would all make sure that nothing didn't. We soon got a radio message, "Thomas, Come in Thomas, Theres about 80 people in the Car Park waiting for the Opening Ceremony. Over". This made us nervous yet at 9:30am sharp...the call came..."Thomas go, Go, GO!!"...with that the Steam Brake was off and with Eddie 'on the handle' off we went! Down the side of the shed and passed the Signalbox we steamed before passing "Mayflower" at the other end of the shed. By now the radio was going "Come on, Now, NOW!!", we kept whistling and we kept soldiering on before reaching the platforms. We saw the big Blue Ribbon ahead and, with much steam and whistles, we broke through it, waving frantically at the crowds of people...
There were indeed alot of people! Too many to count! Lots of cheers and little children shouting "Happy Birthday Thomas!", bless them! The Silver Band had played us through the platforms and were now playing on the end of Platform 1, as we simmered in the North End. People were then allowed to cross the Foot Crossing to join the main train at Platform 2 (hauled by "Henry" and departing at 10am). We were soon called back into Platform 1 (passing Dolly No7) and we then halted in the platform, being told that we'd done a "good job"; that was a relief and half I can tell you! The event was now on and people were pouring in from every nook and cranny! Throughout the day there were games, engine races, singing and dancing (thanks for that!), more numbers by the Silver Band, playlets, colouring contests, model railways, magic shows, punch 'n' judy, temporary tattoo's, souvenirs, story telling, baloon modelling, best dressed visitor competitions and much more! For younger visitors...it really was the place to be! There was just so much to do! Well worth the entry fee! Even when we cooked our "Bacon on the Shovel" we were being watched...it was like 'Steam Railway Masterchief'! We never had hardly a minute to rest, we were just so busy. I got soaked 2-3 times during the Water Game and enjoyed many water-pistol fights with loco crews (much to the delight of the visitors!).
The children also sang Happy Birthday to "Thomas" and signed two huge Birthday Card's for him, both of which ended up being displayed on the engine! An particularly interesting part was when I had to go onto the front of the engine, open the card and read it to "Thomas" before the loco gave a happy whistle. I was told that this was very realistic and both visitors & staff enjoyed it emmensely! (It was quite funny!). With the place packed to bursting, the last train was to depart at 5:15pm, with us as motive power (it was the only train we were allowed to pull all day as "Thomas" needed to remain at Shackerstone to greet his huge fanbase!). I fired the entire trip and, I must say, the Jinty was a beautiful steamer. And, though I had a little too much in the box when I we got for disposal, I was told that had done well. Thank you very much Eddie and Mic for a fantastic day. After clearing out the fire, ashing the loco out and emptying the smokebox, we left "Thomas" to rest. The three of us then retired to join the rest of the days crews, staff and helpers on the Bar Car, "Jessie". We were all thanked greatly by Sam, the Event Organiser, with free Drinks all round (very rare!) and many kind words expressed. The railway had had its busiest day ever and it was the biggest event that the railway has ever organised, ever! It was fantastic and I must thank the head of trainee's, Carl, for giving me the privelege of crewing "Thomas" today, thanks Carl, and thank you to everyone who helped organise, crew and run today. It was amazing.

To see a video of the event CLICK HERE. This video was taken by RailwayFanatic92220 who was at Shackerstone crewing the visiting 00 gauge model railway with Soar Valley Railway Club. Thanks alot mate for giving us such good coverage and thank you all for reading, we're off to the Pub now for a meal and a few drinks. Evening All...

1 comment:

peter1uk said...

Hi Sammy
Have looked at the video. You certainly had a great time and the weather held for you. Enjoyed watching your driver of the day Eddie doing the actions to the "Wheels on the Bus". Must request an enchore next time I see him at the Pools.
Going to close as I still have 2 more of your articles to read.
The Graduate