Sunday, 4 March 2012

Passed as a Fireman...Job Done...

Hi guys. Well, we're here, at last. Today, after 4 years in training, I was passed by the Footplate Inspector at Shackerstone, as a Fireman. Suffice to say it has been a pretty long road. I started at the Battlefield Line as a Cleaner in early 2007, at age 15. I wasn't of course old enough to travel on the footplate then, so I just cleaned engines then, when they went out, I worked in the shed. On Easter Sunday 2008 I got my first turn, on the Peckett "Sir Gomer". I must admit, it was very odd to be out on the engine after 12 months waiting: the line seemed much longer back then too! Throughout 2008 I began gaining route knowledge and of course experience on other engines besides "Sir Gomer". I had Coventry No1, Pannier 9466, the Hawthorn 0-4-0, Hunslet "Jessie" and even the B1 "Mayflower" that first year. Below, a 16-year old Sam is spotted on the footplate of "Sir Gomer" during some Station Pilot duties. God I thought I was everybody back then and I couldn't fire a starting pistol! (Photo courtesy of R.Eborall)...
2009 was also loaded with loco turns, including another go on "Jessie" and many outings on the B1 "Mayflower". It was a pleasure to work on a tendered engine as I never thought I would, especially one so grand and beautiful...
In 2010 I think my firing finally made me feel 'pretty confident'. I had Prairie 5542 and Pannier 5786 a few times this year, and of course "Blue Circle", "Mayflower" and a Blue Jinty (as Thomas). (Photo courtesy of D.Hanks)...
2011 allowed me to get to grips with two different tender engines (visitor 3803 and good old "Mayflower"). They were however both very different. 3803 is typical Western, whereas 1306 was a main-line express 4-6-0, and she had a flap-door! In 2011 I had my first firing exam, on 3803 in December. (Photo courtesy of D.Hanks)...
On January 2nd 2012, I had another Firing Exam, on the lovely 38xx (Photo courtesy of J.Ford)...
Finally, today, the experience acquired over the last 4 years came together and allowed me to pass my final exam, under the watchful eye of assessor John Brittain. Its a great feeling and I'm so glad that I'm done. I'm now allowed out as Fireman on the footplate of any Shackerstone engine with any driver. I'm sure that I will continue learning through, forever more. You never really stop learning do you?! (Photo courtesy of D.Hanks)...
I just briefly want to say thanks to John, for passing me, and to all of the drivers & firemen who I've been on with over the years. Now that I'm passed I can at least look back and say it was all very much worth it. I've made many mistakes but I've learnt from them. I believe they call that experience in some circles! I am very pleased with this achievement...I just can't believe its been 4 years already! (Photo courtesy of D.Hanks)...
Anyway, today, I arrived at Shackerstone at 6:30am, as did John. We proceeded to the loco works and found 3803 inside, simmering away with 40psi on the clock and, to my eye-rubbing amazement, wood CUT(!) and STACKED NEATLY(!) on the footplate! After taking in the initial shock of seeing the wood, I checked the boiler water level (spotted at 3/4 of a glass) and the firegrate, stays, fusibles and brick arch. All looked well and after raking the remaining embers of the warming fire out I made preparations to light the engine. I laid a bed of coal (1 lump thick) across the entire grate and then lit a well-soaked parrafin rag on the end of a plank of wood. Holding the rag in the box with the wood rested on the firehole ring allows the rag to 'take' properly before I thrust it in to about 1/3 of the way down the box (the top of the slope normally). I then stack many planks of wood on top, in opposite crossing shapes to allow the wood to breathe. Me being me, I generally throw 1 or 2 more parrafin rags in to ensure that alot of the wood gets going at once. Then I shut the doors. With the wood having taken hold you can throw a few more shovelfull's of coal on top and this should give a good fire soon enough. Once the back half of the fire is burning away then you can often use the long iron to push some of the burning embers towards the front of the box, getting that half going in the process. It all works out in the end!

With the fire burning well, myself and John set to oiling and then cleaning the engine, with the help of Dave, Mic and Jamie. Mic also put on the weather sheet for us as it was raining well and was showing no signs of stopping! The loco was ready at 10:45am so we chugged out of the yard and across to Platform 2 where we took water. The first of the four trains was at 11:15am and we left on time. I kept a level, covering fire and 3803 responded by holding 200-220psi throughout the journey. At Hedleys I would check the box, probably adding 4-5 shovelfull's, and then the same at Market Bosworth Station & Far Coton (Three Bridges). So we're probably averaging about 5 shovelfull's a mile at this point. I would also add water at all of these locations, shutting off the injector at Shenton after the latter, allowing the loco to maintain about 3/4 of a glass and 190psi. She would then remake steam whilst we ran round, allowing us to leave Shenton with 220psi and a pretty full boiler. Keeping the fire level on the return run, I fired just before John shut-off between the 2nd & 3rd bridges at Far Coton, allowing the new coal to get going at Deer Park slack, where I would have the injector running. I then fired at Market Bosworth and on the approach to Hedleys. We went over Hedley's with 3/4 of a glass and 210psi, allowing 3803 to bark around the corner and then drop down to Shackerstone with doors cracked, dampers shut and injector running, pulling in with 200psi and 2/3 of a glass down the bank. All of our trips were pretty much like that, except the last one in where I pulled her down to 180psi with less fire, ready to go in the shed for disposal.

The loco was very free-steaming, as normal, and kept us to time well. We also managed to stay pretty dry under the weather sheet, except when I had to go out to couple/uncouple! After disposing I left Shackerstone at 5:15pm. It had been a very worthwhile and enjoyable day on the GW 2-8-0 and I can now honestly say that I am a Fireman at last. Thanks for reading folks. Sam...

5 comments:

anthony.williamson77 said...

Many congratulations Sam well done

Sam Brandist said...

Thank you Anthony. Much appreciated :)

Anonymous said...

About b....y time! Congratulations - now the learning really starts when you are out on your onw!

Idryss

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Sam! Well done, I always knew you'd do it. Kindest regards,
Emma-Claire.

Sam Brandist said...

Cheers guys :)