Saturday, 21 April 2012

"Day Out With Thomas" 2012 - Day 1

 Hi guys. This morning, at 6am, I arrived at the gates of the Battlefield Line and opened up, ready for the first of four "Thomas Day"s. As is often the case, I was first there, until the dim morning air was cut by headlight beams from the distance. Sure enough, Dave (my trainee) arrived and we drove in tandem up the driveway to the station. After signing in we walked down to the loco works. Inside sat our Welsh visitor: Jinty Tank No47298: and 3803; both warm and waiting. I dropped my kit in the workshop before clambering up onto our steed for the day (the Jinty). The boiler water level sat at around 3/4 of a glass; all good stuff. I was both amazed and relieved when I looked in the firebox and saw a small fire burning away at the tubeplate end of the grate. It was the remains of the warming fire from the night before and was still flickering nicely. So, after checking the stays, fusibles and the brickarch for any damage, I threw in quite a bit of coal - on top of the remaining flames. I then used the bent-dart to clear the back corners of the grate and the middle section. I could then throw more coal onto the cleared sections before dragging the burning embers back and then clearing the front corners. Though it sounds like alot of messing around, it is SO much easier than breaking up wood and starting afresh...and much quicker. This whole process took less than 5 minutes to complete! Soon enough, Adrian & Danny (the crew of 3803) and Chris (the Bobby) arrived. Within 20 minutes, Adrian had moved the loco's around and the Jinty was on Platform 1 road, allowing 3803 to stay in the dock...
47298 - Courtesy of the Llangollen Railway
 The Jinty was gradually warming up so, after checking the fire, I picked up an Oil Feeder and clambered underneath the locomotive. Without a pit, I joke you not, oiling a Jinty is probably the most unpleasant experience I have ever had. As you clamber up from the floor you need to miss the connecting rods to the expansion links or you may lose your head. Then, the four eccentrics and the two big ends both need oiling. This normally requires you squeezing between the rods as tightly as you can before reaching at arms length as best you can to oil them. It is awkward to say the least. Oh well, I got it done! Below, we see the controls. The reverser is in the foreground, with the regulator in the centre. There are two gauge glasses. The red lever at the bottom is the damper door, next to the firehole doors. The brass cock in the centre is the Blower, either side of which are the injectors. The cock at the top of the reversing lever is the small ejector valve. All in all, a nice workable cab...
 Whilst I oiled 47298, Dave was cleaning her. Danny & Adrian were prepping their steed: the mighty 3803
The Mighty 3803 Stands In The Dock With Danny Scaling The Heights!
 Our driver; John; soon arrived and aided Dave in the cleaning process. 3803 - once she had steam - chugged off down to the North End for coal. This allowed us to get into the shed for ashing out and face-fitting via the dock road. The engine looked spin 'n' span as the Fat Controller approached along the shed path. He examined the engine and then clambered aboard the footplate, making a full four of us. For Thomas events, all engines carry a radio to keep us in contact with the guys in charge. Today, Mr Conductor was on the airwaves giving the orders. So, at 9:50am, bang on time, we left the shed and steamed down into Platform 1 for the Grand Opening. Following that, the loco had to be put onto the front of the train to Steam Heat ready for the first departure at 10:30am
A Steamy "Thomas" at Shackerstone - Ready To Go (by Mark Heseltine)
 The first run saw me firing, with Dave learning the engine. I've been on a few Jinty's now but this one has proved troublesome in the past. However, I fired her with a 'horseshoe' around the back end and, though it was probably a tad too much, she steamed beautifully with plenty of water and steam heat on. At Shenton, we swiftly ran round ready to return to Shack
"Thomas" At Shenton (by Mark Heseltine)
 The engine steamed well on the way back too, bringing us nicely back into Shackerstone. The event was doing well in terms of visitor numbers and we indulged in games, sing-a-longs, engine races, playlets and stories. 3803 took the next trip before we took the 3rd: the "Lunch on Thomas" diner. The Lambert Families 08 & 04 class diesel shunters (as "Diesel" & "Mavis") were doing Brakevan Rides in the meantime
"Well Well Well, Thomas, We Meet Again"
 Once coupled up to the 3rd train, Dave prepared the fire and we got ready to go
 "Thomas" chugged neatly out of Shackerstone with six coaches seeming hardly any effort to move!
"Thomas" Barks Along The Track Towards Hedleys (by Mark Heseltine)
 After another good march to Shenton, we quickly ran round and returned briskly. The performances from the Jinty were fabulous and I think I could really get used to her! Back at Shackerstone there were more songs, games, races and god only knows what else. Visitor reviews seemed positive so all good, ay?! By now we were hungry so I got cooking...
Saturday Kitchen on a Jinty (by Dave Hanks)
 The Bacon went down very well. We had two cooking sessions: one in the platform for the benefit of the visitors, whilst the second was in private - up on the pit out of the way. Bacon on the Shovel rules :)
47298 On The Old Pit - Where We Used To Prep Locos (by Dave Hanks)
After a few more games the day was pretty much drawing to a close and the last train beckoned; hauled by us again. This was the 4:30pm "Tea on Thomas" Diner train. Myself and Dave fired the final trip together: he fired down, I fired back. Off we go then...
 After another fabulous run, we ran round at Shenton before what can only be described as a volcanic run back!! It was fab!!
Once at Shackerstone, we uncoupled, backed up and then steamed up to the dock road and into the shed. The loco was then disposed. I raked the fire and broke alot of clinker up, whilst Dave & John ashed the loco out again. All in all, an absolutely fabulous day. Thanks very much to John & Dave for a fab day, and to Mark & Dave (again) for sending in photographs. "Day out with Thomas" is running at Shackerstone NEXT weekend as well so please do come along. It is a fantastic event which we put alot of time & effort into. Maybe we'll see you there? Thanks very much guys. Sam...

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