Sunday, 1 August 2010

Quiet Sunday On The RPMR...

Hi all. Today was my 3rd and final rostered Crew Turn of 2010 at my 5" gauge concern; Ryton Pool Miniature Railway. I arrived on site at just before 12 Midday and found the Member in Charge for the day; Peter; already on site getting out the stock with the Class 37 electric. After we shunted the stock into the correct 4-car format, Emma and David arrived and we set about organising ourselves. Myself and Emma then headed off to find the steam engine; Sweet Pea No499 "John H Owen"; whilst Peter and David made two test laps with the Class 37. They also set about putting the many Signals out onto their posts ready for the running. With the steamer now out on the Steaming Bay I set about checking her over. She seemed in good nick, considering she had had a mammoth running session the weekend before during the Night Run (see seperate post). However, Emma discovered a pile of ash at the back of the smokebox, leaning up against the tubeplate. This ash was actually covering the bottom two boiler tubes and this told me to check behind the Firebox Baffle as well; just in case. Luckily, on removal of the firebox (good old Marine boiler's!) I discovered no ash and the tubes seemed perfectly clean; even the bottom two. We came to the conclusion that the ash must have dropped down from atop the spark arrestor during the week when the loco was shunted about. Whilst Emma continued to clean the smokebox, I oiled the loco up and laid a thick wood fire in the box. As soon as Emma had finished, I lit the engine up and turned on the Blower. Within 20 minutes or so, "John H Owen" was ready to go and had 70psi on the clock. Therefore, Emma went around to Ryton Halt to reverse the main train around with the 37 before we swapped the loco's over...
Now coupled up, I placed the engine into Reverse gear and carefully opened the regulator. Nothing. Therefore, I 'shut off' before placing the loco into Forward gear and trying again. This engine is fitted with Automatic Drain Cocks and therefore any water in the cylinders is trapped until the Drains decide to open. Therefore, it is necessary to go 'carefully' when starting the loco off so as not to force the water out through the chimney (it isn't pleasant!). With a bit of hissing, the loco's Drain Cocks opened and vast amounts of water and oil spilt out, freeing off the engine's pistons. With the water out, 'JHO' began to roll forward, telling me that I could now 'open up' and chug around to the station with the 4-coach train. The Station Approach Signal rose and we whistled through the Arrivals Platform into the Departure Platform, coming to a stand alongside the Water Column. I took on water here whilst the passengers boarded ready for the first steam hauled trip. With a blast on the Guard's whistle, off we went. I drove the first three trips before handing over to Peter who fancied trying his hand on the regulator again after a good break away from steam driving. As expected, it came back to him just like riding a bike and he did a good few trips before handing over to David. David had also not driven for a while but seemed to return in good time though, rather unusually, he'd lost the shovel half way round! I then looked after the engine whilst Dave went to look for the shovel. I must admit, hand firing a Sweet Pea is NOT easy at all, particularly when there is a hole at the front of the fire! In the end, the passengers had been loaded and Emma asked me to drive the loco whilst she acted as Guard. I wasn't confident when we left, even though the fire was pretty good, as firing on the run with no shovel would be very difficult indeed. However, luckily, as we made it to the bridge on the outward run, Dave appeared with the shovel and I stopped to collect it before continuing with the run, banking up the fire ready for attack on the 1 in 70 incline on the return journey. After arriving back at Ryton Halt successfully, I handed the loco over to Driver Emma...
"JHO" continued to run very well throughout the afternoon. However, when Emma reported a bit of poor steaming we did a quick "Pit Stop" (myself and Emma are very good at these now!). Whilst Emma had the smokebox open (cleaning the arrestor and sweeping out the char), I had the Marine Firebox out so that I could clean behind the Baffle and check the tubes. The smokebox door is then shut and the Firebox replaced; still with the fire lit of course! It is then time to put the Blower back on and to either rake the fire through or add more coal; this depends on the condition of the fire following the "Pit Stop"; it's all a matter of time! Below, Emma is ready to depart with another full train. You will notice the 45-degree Deflector Pipe in the chimney, allowing any sparks or ash to be thrown to the Right Hand side of the train rather than back over the Driver's head and onto the passengers (Well, thats the idea anyway!)...
After Emma had done a good few trips she handed the loco over to David again who did even more good runs with varying loads. As ususal, the loco steamed and ran beautifully with no reported problems. At 3:45pm, David handed me back the regulator and I drove the final two steam hauled passenger runs, allowing us to take "JHO" off the track before 4pm ready for a quick blowdown and clean up. With "JHO" off the track I set about Blowing Down whilst Emma got the 37 coupled up to the train again. Emma then took the final few passengers around the track with the powerful 37. Meanwhile, I had Blown-down "JHO" and emptied the Grate and Ashpan. Also, "JHO" had begun to contract following the Blow Down and had sucked two full water tanks worth of H20 through into her boiler ready for the next user; whoever that may be. Emma then arrived and swept the smokebox whilst I used the Flue brush to sweep the tubes. We then cleaned up the engine before putting her away. In the meantime, David and Peter were busy shunting the stock and putting the Signals away. With everything away, we all retired to the Clubhouse to wash our hands before departing for home. I thanked everyone before departing for home myself at about 5:15pm. Thank you to my other three crew members for such a nice afternoon of steam running on the RPMR with "JHO". Admittedly, the "best" (in some ways!) part of the afternoon was when I had to restart "JHO" from the foot of the steep bank with a very heavy full train. The loco, with much slipping and hissing, roared into life and the accent up the 1 in 70 was particularly loud! (Not my fault honestly! ^_^ ). Thanks for reading folks, Good Evening...

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