Sunday, 6 June 2010

Bala Holiday Day Four: Third Firing Turn, A Bala Overview And Hometime!...

Hi all. Well the final day of my long 4-day holiday weekend to the Bala Lake Railway in Wales has arrived. This is the final post of the four regarding the weekend. I rose at 7:15am this morning so that I could begin packing, ready to leave the site for home at about 7pm this evening. After a bit of packing I moved into the kitchen and had my breakfast with the usual BBC Breakfast show on in the background. At 8:10am I headed off down to the shed where I found Chris already working on one of the other loco's. As I entered the shed, Eddie appeared behind me. We then set too, as with the two previous days, on preparing the locomotive. "Holy War" was readied and, though today was a little cooler, we were very much enjoying ourselves. A huge difference today was that we wore our driver's jackets all day without problem! To see me and Eddie in action, and "Holy War" of course(!), click HERE for a visitor's video, taken today. Below, we see me firing the loco through the door's at the back; much easier when stationary!...
Below, a little vain but there we go, just to prove I was there!...
During our 4 trips today, though the sun was a little more reluctant to come out than during the previous days, we suffered no problems and kept to time relatively well. "Holy War" is spotted below at Bala...
Now, to the other Bala locomotive's. You may remember that I mentioned an 'Alice Class'. Well, this a true 'Alice' class with no cab, named "Alice" too as it happens! "Alice", No780, is a cabless Quarry Hunslet and has been based at the Bala Line on and off for a good few years. Owned by a member, "Alice" is just coming out of a full 10-year type overhaul that has included a new set of tubes and a new smokebox to name but a few jobs. The loco currently has no tank or chimney but it is hoped to have her finished and painted in as near to Dinorwic colour's as possible in the very near future...the end of the month hopefully! I'm told that, on summer days, this engine is by far the best. Before preservation she worked in Dinorwic on the highest level. Therefore, when preservation came about, the rusting hulk of "Alice" was left high up in the quarries. This meant that getting her back was a daunting prospect. The valve gear and wheels were however taken by the then owner of "Holy War" and the wheels are now under the blue Hunslet! The rest of "Alice", including boiler, were then taken by the West Lancashire Light Railway lads as they needed a boiler for their Hunslet; "Irish Mail". Therefore, she now carries "Alice"s 'real' boiler. However, eventually, "Alice"s new owner came across her and began doing up her chassis at home. When this was done he needed a boiler. The Leighton Buzzard Railway then contacted him and offered to pay for 1/2 of the boiler if he had the engine on the LBR for 5 years...this was agreed. Therefore, "Alice" received a new boiler, thats why she has normal screw-in safety valves rather than Ramsbottom's as per design. After many years at the LBR the loco returned to Bala, where she remains to this day...
The other Quarry Hunslet currently under restoration is "George B". "George B", No680, has never steamed in preservation and is also owned by a member. She is usually kept under a plastic sheet but she is coming along very nicely, bottom-end wise. The work done is all new and 2nd to none; it really is. No680 will hopefully be in steam in a few years time as slow but considerable progress continues...
The other running Hunslet, alongside "Holy War", is "Maid Marian". She is also an 'Alice' class with a cab, being very similar to "Holy War". Built in 1903, "Marian" is owned by a support crew of the same name. She takes turns with "Holy War", operating many services on the line throughout the season. The red livery is very attractive and suits her well. It's also nice that the two running Hunslet's are different colours to add a bit of variety. "Maid Marian" is seen in the shed below, resting for a few weeks...
However, like "Alice", "Maid Marian" has her own tale to tell...she isn't "Maid Marian"! "What do you mean" I hear you say. Well, "Maid Marian" is actually "King of the Scarlets". "Marian" was never an 'Alice' class, in fact, she had a dome! "King of the Scarlets" was built before "Maid Marian" and, in fact, the real "Maid Marian" had a dome! The "King" is now in the USA, so I believe so theres absolutely no chance of swapping the names back now. The names were swapped in the 1930s, never to return to reality. Nobody seems to know why they were changed but they were, as were the works-plates. Unusual huh? The "impersonator"s nameplate is spotted below...what a nice 'Alice' class!...
You may well also ask, "Where do the names come from?". Well, Dinorwic engine's were named after either Racehorses or Family members of the management; the first being the situation with "Maid Marian" and "Holy War", the latter being apparent with "Alice". You may also see links between the two running Hunslet's within the Robin Hood tales. The third non-running engine in the shed at the base is "Triassic", something a little closer to home; a Peckett 0-6-0 Saddle Tank; a baby "Gomer"?!...
"Triassic" was built in 1911 (21 years before "Sir Gomer"), and worked at Kay's Cement Works. The loco is privately owned and, though only a few years into a 10-year ticket, failed her last yearly boiler examination due to 'not enough threads on the cab's inspection ports'. This problem is particularly apparent on Peckett's I'm afraid; shame really as she looks a beastly engine. She was also the first industrial locomotive to be bought for preservation, purchased in 1957. In fact, I was told that this loco will easily out-pull any of the 'Alice Class' Hunslet's...afterall, she is an 0-6-0...Maybe she'll run again one day?; I hope so! To see some film of "Triassic" in action a few years ago, click HERE...
After our successful four final trips, after after covering around 120 miles on "Holy War" over the 3 days, we made it back onto shed safely before disposing. The railway has a "day off" (not a common occurance!) and so "Holy War" (coupled to "Bob Davis) was locked up safely in the shed, naturally alongside sisters "Maid Marian", "Alice" and "George B" as well as the 'lost wanderer', "Triassic". It was then time for a final post-disposal cuppa' with the management team whom I thank dearly for allowing me to come along and experience their fantastic railway. During this time I also said my goodbyes to the very kind managers, Roger and Bobbie. I really have had a fantastic time. After the cuppa' it was time for a shower and the final packing (and a quick pasty!) before leaving the station for home at around 7pm with Eddie and Llyn...caravan in tow. For your interest, here's a final image of "Holy War" at the terminus yesterday; notice the two whistles up on the cab, "just for fun"...
The journey back was very quick and painless, aided by some good old fashioned chatting! I final got into my house at about 9:45pm, tired, weary yet very satisified with the weekend! I must thank Eddie and Llyn dearly for putting up with me and allowing me to 'tag along' with them to the Bala Lake Railway. I must also thank Eddie for being my Driver on "Holy War" for the three days we crewed her...thank you Eddie! Special thanks must go to Roger and Bobbie for allowing me to come along and for their kindess and hospitality. Finally, to Rob and Chris who made my stay even more enjoyable; great stuff! Honestly, I had a fantastic time and would love to go along and fire their again. It really is a beautiful line with friendly staff, well-turned out locomotives and breathtaking lakeside scenary; I recommend a visit to anyone! So, why not go along and experience the fantastic Bala Lake Railway; you won't be dissapointed. Click HERE for their website. Also, why not click HERE for a fantastic video by the "RailwayChannel", offering a short documentary on the railway. Thank you very much to everyone who made my weekend so enjoyable, it really was fantastic; Thank You so much! Now, I need some sleep, Good Night all!...

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