Saturday, 17 March 2012

A Sunny & Steamy Day: Firing 3803...

Hello everyone. This morning at 7am; after a brisk visit to McDonalds; I unlocked the railway gates at Shackerstone and drove inside. As I roared up the drive in the Saxo towards the station, I remember thinking "I hope this rain gives in": remembering my very wet turn on 3803 two weeks back. Anyway, after unloading my car I staggered (bags in hand) along Platform 2. The place is always silent at this time in the morning, until you get to where the water column is. At that point the birds you have just rudely awoken begin calling out, as if an intruder has just walked blindly into their midst. Either that or they think that I've got the Station Cat with me! Entering the works through the little blue door, "Sir Gomer" was directly in front of me, still on the pit. The 38' was at the front of the shed: warm and raring to go. She had 10psi on the clock, having been steam tested yesterday so I knew that it wouldn't take long to get her into steam. After checking around the box and backhead, I began raking through the remaining embers before tipping the dead fire out through the rocking grate. I then began the process of lighting the engine, with the usual bed of coal plus wood, plus oily rags. Soon enough, the Western was lit and sat 'singing' near the main door. Driver Adrian & his brother Austin; who would be joining us for the day; duly arrived and we set to oiling & cleaning the locomotive.

By 11am; when we left shed; the loco had been cleaned throughly. We had done the barrel and cab in polish, with the bottom end done in parrafin-oil mix, the smokebox coated in steam oil and the running boards in white spirit. Steam department regular Dave Hanks had shined up all of the brass the day before which complemented the engine very nicely. We departed 5 minutes down on our first run to Shenton, with 4 coaches in tow. By now, the sun was shining and it was very pleasant indeed. Below, 3803 pulls into Shackerstone with the "Cambrian Coast Express" (obviously severely diverted!!)...

I can be seen leaning out from the cab as the 38' pulls in...
Whilst we were out on our jollies hauling the five service trains, Carl & Pockets were busy in the yard steam-testing "Sir Gomer". The ex-Mountain Ash Peckett is on trial following some winter repairs and will receive another steam test next week before being declared (hopefully) 'fit to run'. This will no doubt see her out & about at other railways on hire, earning us some cash in industrial style...
Back to us on 3803, our first 3 trips went very well. The loco steamed and operated brilliantly, handling the 4-coach train as if it were a light engine move! Passenger numbers also seemed favourable for a Saturday. We were mindful to operate 3803 today instead of the usual diesel due to the movement of the Steam Gala, which would have been this weekend. The Steam Gala will now take place in September with four engines (three of which will have tenders!) in steam. After the 3rd trip, we steamed into Shackerstone, uncoupled and began running round. We halted in Platform 2 for a very quick break. Fireman Sam Brandist and Trainee Austin Lock discuss Stephenson Valve Gear on 3803...
On the 4th trip, I was handed the regulator as I am now of course training to drive as well as being a passed out fireman. To me, its just like driving any size/scale of locomotive, just bigger! On the 5th trip, myself & Austin shared the firing and we are seen departing Shackerstone on time...
After our successful 5th trip we arrived back just about on time and then disposed. It had been a fantastic day and I must thank Adrian & Austin for a very enjoyable time. 3803 had performed faultlessly. Also thanks to Dave for sending in all 5 of the pics used in this post. Cheers guys. Sam...

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