Saturday, 17 December 2011

Santa & Steam with 3803...

Hi all. Early this morning, as a thick frost lay across Leicestershire, I pulled up at Shackerstone in my yellow Saxo. It was 5:45am and I was soon joined at the dark gates by the Passed Fireman for the day; Danny. Many of you will know that I now coming very close to the end of my firing training but still need a passed fireman on the footplate when not under assessment: this is for insurance purposes. After shutting the gates behind us, we drove in tandem up the drive to as near to the station as possible. It was very cold and earily quiet...even the Station Cat was nowhere to be seen! We both managed to survive the ice-clad obstacle course that allows access to the shed so, after opening up, we found 3803 slumbering inside. She was already warm but the lighting of a fire as quickly as possible still seemed a very good idea. So, we set to. Danny cleaned the grate and we then broke up some wood. The fire was soon lit, though a little sluggish at first. The booked Driver; Jan; duly arrived and we then enjoyed a nice hot cuppa'. I tell you what, never is a cuppa' more welcome than in the loco shed at this time of the morning! With the fire still a little sluggish in the box of the big 2884-class, we threw in some more, slightly dryer wood. With that, the fire took hold very quickly and it wasn't long before the all important needle moved off its stop.

Jan then began oiling whilst myself & Dan oversaw the fire and some other little jobs that needed doing. At 9:20am, the locomotive was ready and we steamed out of the shed, shoving the 'dead' Class 02 as we did so. With the little diesel shifted, we crossed over onto the train and began steam heating. At 10am, we pulled away from Shackerstone. The train of 6 coaches followed easily as Jan drove and I fired. Down at Market Bosworth, there were a number of waits throughout the day. Each of the 4 trains waited here for a different duration of time so that Santa could see everybody. On the 2nd run, myself and Danny waited on the engine whilst Jan went for a tour of the currently under-restoration Market Bosworth Signalbox. She took this picture from the ROOF(!) of the building. 3803 waits in the station with myself and Dan on the footplate (Photo by Jan Ford)...
The day went very well. 3803 steamed well, apart from the odd bit of clinker at the back end. This continuous clinker problem is no doubt being caused by the lack of air being allowed in through the broken rear damper door. But, if you keep cleaning the fire regularly you can sort of keep control of it. I must admit though, I don't think you could find an easier loco to fire than 3803. She is a very forgiving locomotive, due to her large firebox and huge boiler. There is just so much in reserve with a bigger engine. This is probably one of the reasons why trainees tend to enjoy it on the loco. Its just so easy. Mind you, I'm not saying that if you had never fired a loco before then you would find it easy, but, admittedly, after a bit of practise you can soon pick it up. But, should you get into trouble, 9 times out of 10 she will save your skin by holding pressure at a reasonable level. However, never underestimate an engine's power to bring you to your knees. She could, and she would! After a late departure from Shackerstone on the 2pm 'Santa', there was another 30-minute wait at MB. So, we took the opportunity to have a well-earned cuppa, a rest and a chat. Driver Jan Ford was 'on the handle' today, though Danny did take us for 1/2 a trip. Jan is probably one of our more experienced drivers. She has driven countless engines from the historic 0-4-2 "LION" right up to the world famous A3 Pacific "Flying Scotsman". At Shackerstone, she is known as a lover of Westerns after spending many years volunteering for the Tyseley Collection; then the Birmingham Railway Museum. There she drove the Castle's and the Panniers amongst other things. I believe thats where she got her well known saying..."You Can Do Anything With A Pannier". Below, Driver Jan Ford takes a break on a simmering 3803...
Jan has her own, very interesting blog, that can be found HERE. Earlier in the day, just before the 2pm trip, Jan caught 4 of us 'railwaymen' deep in conversation behind the 38' at Shackerstone. From left to right, we have Reas; the king of vegetation clearance at Shackerstone; first. Then, Andy; often referred to on this blog by his well known nickname of 'Pockets'. Pockets is a driver & fireman on the line and does alot of work in the steam department. Third, we have young Dan, who passed as a Fireman in August this year. Finally, you have me on the end. What do I look like?! (Photo by Jan Ford)...
At Shenton on the 2pm trip, we lit the loco lamps and the gauge glass lamp. The sun was fast dissapearing and a chilly evening was moving in. On the return to Shack, we took water before pulling away on the late running 4pm train. This time, we were joined by Reas on the footplate. Down the line, darkness had fallen and we couldn't see a thing. It was also very cold. However, running with the firehole doors open and the GWR flap up seemed to give a little bit of heat, as well as a little light too. I was however very mindful about producing glare as Jan was trying hard to see the road ahead. At MB, there was a 5-minute wait before we headed off for a very dark Shenton. After a brisk run-round we recoupled and the steam heat was duly back on again. With a green light and a blow on his whistle, the Guard gave us the 'Right Away' and we set off for home. 3803 was still steaming well and we made good time, running straight through the illuminated Market Bosworth platform and then accelerating through the woods towards Airport Bridge. Dropping into Shackerstone, there was very little fire left and 1/2 a glass of water in the boiler. The gauge read 170psi and this was more than enough for us to uncouple, run up into the shed and to dispose. The fire was declinkered (again!) and then raked throughly. There was very little left when I had finished. We then filled the boiler using both injectors. With the boiler brimmed, and 80psi on the gauge, we called it a day. We had had a very enjoyable time and I must thank Driver Jan for letting me use 4 of her photos in this blog. Also thanks to Dan for letting me fire all day and for doing most of the coupling/uncoupling. Cheers guys; loved it. Tomorrow, I'm back at Shackerstone again...stewarding! Thanks for reading folks. Sam...

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