Sunday, 29 January 2012

10 In Steam at GCR - Footplating a King Arthur...

Hi everyone. This is Post No1 of 2 regarding my visit to the Great Central's Winter Steam Gala. The story of my entire gala visit will be documented in the next post, whilst this one documents my footplate ride on the 9:50am Loughborough - Leicester train. Having heard in the railway press that the GCR were going to be offering footplate rides during this years gala at £40 a pop, I was very interested. I have been on the footplate here before; on the GWR Prairie No4141; but that was back in 2007 so, 5 years later, I decided it was perhaps time to have another go. The choice of engines left was 78019 the Standard 2, 4953 "Pitchford Hall" and the NRM's King Arthur "Sir Lamiel". I've done Western's and I've done 78019 so I felt that "Lamiel" was the obvious choice. I've never been on her before and I've never really paid attention to the King Arthur Class...but I will from now on! I joined the crew aboard 30777 just before departure. The Driver I recognised straight away; Tom Tighe, Loughborough Shed CME. We departed on time, and the video below documents quite a bit of the run...

"Sir Lamiel" was in fine form, expertly driven by Mr Tighe. The track is in fantastic nick (obviously!) and the double-track formation allowed us to pass a few trains on route too. We called at Quorn & Rothley before continuing up to the terminus at Leicester North. The loco had a good bark and steamed well, running at full regulator and well notched up for a good portion of the double-track running! The double-bogie tender also gave fantastic ride quality whilst the huge driving wheels gave a smooth ride up front as well. It was very pleasant; but very cold!...
Below, Driver Tom Tighe takes "Sir Lamiel" up out of Rothley towards Leicester...
On the double-track approaching Quorn (cue hi-viz jackets)...
For those of you who have never experienced a footplate ride and want to...DO IT! Theres no better way to travel on a railway, besides perhaps Premier Dining of course. Theres nothing like hearing the locomotive work so up close, seeing the glow of fire & watching the rolling fields pass by as she throws white steam over her shoulder: it is great. In my life, the ride is no more enjoyable than working on these locomotives as a Fireman but, admittedly, when you are part of the crew you are almost constantly worrying as you need to concentrate. When you are just a 3rd party (i.e. a rider) then you are pretty much devoid of responsibility, allowing you to 'sit back', relax and enjoy the trip...which is just what I did! Obviously you can't just turn off your interest, in other words I was watching the fireman and the driver like a hawk, comparing what they did to what we do at Shackerstone, but thats just me being nosy. All in all, it was a lovely trip. I thanked the crew and left the footplate at Leicester North ready to watch the loco run round...
A very enjoyable ride indeed. Now, for a bit about "Sir Lamiel". She is the sole survivor of the King Arthur Class 4-6-0s and was built in June 1925 by the North British Loco Company. "Sir Lamiel" was named after a minor Knight of the Round Table: Lamiel of Cardiff: and has carried this name throughout her life. She is based at the GCR but is also main-line registered for 75mph Network Rail running (45mph when tender first). Her class was known as the N15 and were originally designed by Urie; though these earlier King Arthur's were reported to be poor steamers. The class were redesigned by Maunsell and even modified by Bullied, which improved their performance no end. In total, 74 of the N15 Class were produced, with only one remaining today; thanks to the efforts of the National Collection to preserve her. Though NRM owned, 30777 is looked after by the 5305 Locomotive Association who also care for 70013 "Oliver Cromwell" and Black 5 No45305. "Lamiel" is a very pleasant engine; I enjoyed the trip very much. She always seems to be one of those engines that sort of slips under the radar as she isn't really 'that well known'. But, I think she is overlooked massively as she is obviously a powerful, fast and economical locomotive. I would ride behind her any day: lovely engine. Thanks to the GCR, 30777 and her crew for a great trip and finally, thank you for reading guys. Post 2 regarding today will describe the rest of my gala visit: enjoy! Sam...

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