Sunday, 22 August 2010

Firing 5542 at Shackerstone...

Hi everyone. Today I was due to crew Shackerstone's visiting engine; GWR 'Light Prairie' No5542. I collected Fireman Carl at 6am and we proceeded to Shackerstone, arriving there at about 6:15am. As the first two on site, we discovered a still very warm No5542 in the South Yard behind the engine sheds. There was still a bit of steam in the boiler and therefore, it wouldn't be too hard to steam the engine up again. Carl proceeded to break up some wood whilst I got the rake from atop the fireman's-side tank. I then raked the grate which was only slightly covered with spent fuel from the day before. I then checked the inside of the firebox as I normally would. It was then time to cover the grate with a bed of coal 'one-lump thick'; this takes a few shovelfulls on this engine. Then, thanks to Carl, I had some wood to start the fire with. Stacking the planks diagonally, I soon had a good heap of fuel on the grate. It was then time to grab the shovel and light some diesel-soaked rags. Once lit, the rags are thrown through the firehole ring and, hopefully, onto the centre of the fire. I then open the Damper and close the Firehole doors. The fire is then left to 'get going'. Meanwhile, Driver Jan had arrived and was starting to oil the engine round. After a few hours, 5542 was just about ready and we left the shed on time at 10:30am. We had also done some brass cleaning both atop the engine and inside the cab! Below, 5542 is spotted just after coming off shed. (Photo by D.Hanks)...
Once coupled up to the first train we were ready to go. I would be firing the first two trips with Jan driving and Carl basically supervising. We left Shackerstone on time at 10:50am, joined by a shareholder of 5542! (No pressure then!). The engine steamed well on the way to Shenton and it wasn't long before we arrived there (time flies when you're firing). After running round we were given a cup of coffee each (thanks to the Buffet Car staff) and we were then given the "Right Away" for Shackerstone. 5542 steamed very well on the way back too and we made it back to base in good time. One thing I did notice however was that the 'heat' was a little different. I know that sounds silly but, due to the different brand of coal being used today compared to what I fired on last time, it seems a fair observation indeed! For example, the use of the Dampers to ignite the fuel was a little more regular. On the last coal, the engine steamed with very little use of the Damper. This coal required a little more time to get-going I thought. However, once it was 'really hot', it really did the job well. The only problem was a bit of clinker here and there. Best idea seemed to rake it off the grate and push it under the door; as Pockets said to. After a successful 1st trip I had an even better 2nd trip; it was relatively easy; I would even go so far as to say I enjoyed it! 5542 is seen at Shack waiting to be watered up after the 2nd trip...
For the 3rd trip, I decided to take a break and enjoy my lunch and a cuppa' in the shed. This would also give Pockets a chance to do some firing on 5542 as he wanted to (he normally gets lumbered with driving only!). After 55 minutes out on the line, 5542 returned right on time with, unusually, Pockets on the handle! I then returned to the footplate for the 4th trip, firing again. I then fired the first half of the 5th trip; Pockets fired the way back before we put 5542 to bed. Throughout the day, we had been firing with the flap rather than the doors. This is a much 'lighter' method, saving more energy in the process...
5542 is seen pulling out of Market Bosworth with the 5-coach rake, bound for Shenton; seen through the Driver's window; note the ever important cuppa' on the window sill...
After the 5th trip we uncoupled the loco and ran off the train into the North End. Meanwhile, Pockets was raking the fire through. (It wasn't mine, it was his; normal practise of course!). We then proceeded in reverse back through Platform 1 and into the Dock Road (leading upgrade to the Shed). 5542 was put neatly into the shed by Driver Jan and she was then 'screwed down' and filled up with water for the evening; thus ending her disposal. (Her main disposal is done in the week when she's cooler). 5542 runs off the train and into the North End...
All in all, it had been a great day and I left Shack at about 7:15pm; driving home. Thank you to Firemen Pockets and Carl as well as Driver Jan Ford and of course No5542 herself. On another note, Driver Jan has her own blog and her own railway photography site. Why not check them out? (Click on them to view). 5542 performed very well again today and was, again, willing to work. I'm also crewing the engine next Saturday and then I've got 1306 "Mayflower" on August 30th and September 5th. (Should be good; more posts coming as they happen!). Thanks again to everyone involved for a great day firing; I really enjoyed it. Thank you for reading folks. Good Evening...

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