Saturday, 5 June 2010

Bala Holiday Day Three: Firing Again & An Analysis of the Journey...

Hi again everyone! Day Three began at 7:30am once again as I got up and enjoyed my breakfast in the sitting room of the accomodation. Just before 8:30am I headed off down the shed and discovered Eddie already inside, tightening the piston-packing on the drivers-side (this had been blowing-by a bit the day before). Eddie then got the loco out with the diesel ("Bob Davis") and sat her on the outside ashpit, as per the day before. I then went about my duties of tube cleaning, smokebox sweeping, grate emptying and ashpan raking; though Eddie did have to help with the tubes again...it's so strenuous! With my pre-lighting jobs done I could then light up the engine. By 9:30am we already had 10psi 'on the clock' so, when we went for tea at 10am, the loco was 'well on the way'. Today, we were rostered for another four run's up and down the line, on the same timetable as the day before. Eddie can be seen above, Brasso-ing the outside of the loco. Below, you can a compilation of some film clips that Eddie's wife, Llyn, took during preparation. From the Shed Road we backed off into the yard before running through the Station Loop and up to the Coal/Water road...
Once coaled and watered we ran round onto the front of the 11:15am (first) train. Below, the little Hunslet, "Holy War", can be seen in the platform at Llanuwchllyn ready to begin her run, of course adorning her lamp...

Now, the main purpose of this post is to describe the journey as best as possible. SO, here we go. With a blow on the Guard's whistle and a wave of the flag, off we go. With 5 coaches on today, "Holy War" started with a good bark but still began moving very easily. Leaving Llanuwchllyn, trains pass across two sets of points, leaving the loop and passing the yard access. The Carraige Shed is then passed on the left with a rake of stored wagons on the right. Once clear of the Carraige Shed the loco can accelerate the 5-coach load up to a more 'interesting' speed. At this time the pressure (full pressure 110psi) was holding at around 90psi; I liked to leave it at this amount for this part of the run as a long downhill stretch is approaching. As the station begins to get smaller, the trains top the 1/2 mile long '1 in 70' Bank...in this case going downhill. The Driver shuts-off here and the train coasts, speed being kept at a "safe" amount by the brake. In the image below we have just started descending the hill and even now the blue waters of Bala Lake can be seen in the distance...
Once at the foot of the bank the train curves through a wooded area, at lake level, with the regulator now open again to keep momentum. As the line opens up we pass the first small halt on the line; Pentrepiod. Here there is a small platform and a foot crossing on a footpath. One family did join here today, but, only one!...
Passing Pentrepiod on the right-hand corner we reach "Flag". This small halt, about 6 minutes ride from Llanuwchllyn is used as the "Santa's Grotto" when Christmas Trains are running as it is simply "too cold" to continue any further with the freezing lake nearby! For the rest of the year, "Flag" is not used as far as I know. Just past the station is a little cottage where the resident is often out to wave to passengers!...
After "Flag" the line remains wooded again before one of the best views on the line open's up at Lakeside...now isn't that beautiful?...
The main intermediate halt on the railway is Llangower, situated just before the line's 1/2 way point. Llangower includes a good size platform with a passing loop just a few yards past. The lakeside area here is very nice and, on a sunny day like today, it must have been like being on the seaside...
Llangower platform can be seen below with the passing loop in the distance...
After the short stop at Llangower the train restarts and climbs upgrade through the passing loop and up around a sweeping right-hand curve. The top of the climb is heralded by a rather nice over-bridge. It must be remembered that the line was once standard gauge and therefore the structures are huge!...
More woods then appear and the line looks fantastic. Wildlife is very apparent with sheep, squirrals and many birds appearing at the lineside. The local Llanuwchllyn to Bala country road across the hills also meets the railway line now and again, as seem below. The line is clearly sandwiched beautifully between the lake and the road. This is probably the best view from the footplate I've ever seen!...
Another over-bridge then appears as the train curves into another wooded cutting. The ever-changing scenary is very apparent...
The final view of the lake on the line is on the approach to Bala. Here there were many small boats anchored just yards from the shore and it was like over-looking a seaside Harbour in some respects! This little iron bridge heralds a long whistle from the engine..."to tell the residents of Bala that we're coming"!...
Throughout the weekend, this particular section, not far from Bala, was often seen sporting onlookers. This is again the country road from Llanuwchllyn. Many cars and pushbikes pulled over during the weekend to wave, take pictures or even just have a quick look...one such vehicle (the Red Yaris) is seen at the location as we pass...
From the above location the line curves away from the lake on a long right-hand curve. Another standard gauge scale over-bridge is passed under on the line. However, before long, with another long whistle, the train approaches Bala Station which includes a run round loop, bay loop, long platform, waiting shelter and a footbridge. Below, passengers can be seen awaiting the train...
At Bala, it's best to have the fire a little low but ready to be 'brought up' again when necessary. This saves blowing off in the platform...though I managed to prevent "Holy War" from blowing-off all weekend thank goodness! The little blue Hunslet is seen below at Bala...
Having just moved over into the loop, the Driver stops to oil up and check the engine over after the 4.75-mile run. The Fireman can then check his fire. I, having checked the fire, had the chance to get this "trademark" photo of "Holy War" in the loop, next to the railway's dual-language station sign!...
Having oiled up, the driver returns to the footplate and moves the engine forward to the end of the loop. The Fireman then unlocks the ground frame and changes the entrance point, allowing the loco to move back into position at the other end of the train. The frame is unlocked via a key on the Single Line Token, carried on the loco. I can be seen below, operating the frame (thanks for taking this one Eddie)...
Having backed down and coupled up again, the Guard makes the decision when to go. I had to make up the fire as firing on the run (when the engine is working hard at least) can create leaking tubes as too much cold air on the tubeplate is not good. These engine's have no brickarch in their 2ft x 1ft firebox's afterall. Steaming out of Bala we retrace our steps, running both roadside, lakeside and through wooded cuttings and across green pastures. Check out this for a view through the Fireman's window!...
The run back seems to be more uphill though I must admit! (Don't know why, it just does!). The Hunslet's cope very well with it all though, 5 coaches is not a huge weight for them. However, perhaps the most daunting (yet enjoyable!) part of the way back is taking the 1/2 mile '1 in 70' in the uphill direction! In fact, on the way back, Pentrepiod is often known as the "Last Chance Saloon"(!) as, if you haven't got enough coal on by then, you may not get up the hill! Once passed the station, black smoke pours from the chimney as the newly-added coal ignites and the heat builds up. In fact, I was having to calm "Holy War" down a little on the injectors but I could see that driver Eddie was enjoying himself immensely on the regulator for these "attacks" on the hill! Even though on each of the 12 assents we did there we no problems, the view below did look quite daunting on the 1st return run of the weekend! (click to enlarge to get the full impression!)...
The bark from the chimney on this climb is fantastic though. The fire is wripped about a bit but thats a given really on a climb like this. It does help though as when the Driver shuts-off the fire is then small and has a few holes therefore the loco doesn't blow off in the platform when you want her to be quiet. (This is good as there is a 35-minute layover between trips at Llanuwchllyn). Below, "Holy War" is seen below with her 5-coach train after yet another successful trip with the "Dream Team" crew...bit big-headed really but oh well!...
I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and that it has given you a good insight into the fantastic journey available behind the lovely Quarry Hunslet's on the Bala Lake Railway. Myself and Eddie also had another good day, no problems to report (thank goodness!). We enjoyed our lunch (that was ordered when Bobbie appeared at the loco at 9:30am sharp on shed again this morning!) and got mugged for most of it by the station dog, "Punch" (he's got his persuasion skills down to a tee!). By 5:30pm we had disposed again and were enjoying a cuppa' in the cafe with the other staff. Tomorrow, we're off home but we still have another four trips to do in the day with "Holy War" beforehand! There will be a post again tomorrow and this will also include a bit of info on other loco's the railway. Finally, I make no apologies for the length of this post! Hope you enjoyed it folks. Evening All...

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