Sunday, 13 May 2012

"Sir Gomer" On Holiday: The Chinnor Railway...

Hi guys. This morning at just before 7am I was on the A46, on route to the M40. My destination: the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway in Oxfordshire. This 3.5-mile long preserved line is standard gauge and runs between the idyllic village of Chinnor, across fields and open plains to a run-round loop on the outskirts of Princes Risborough, around 1/2 a mile from the town itself. Earlier this year, the C & PRR was due to hire the South Devon's Prairie Tank No5526. However, when the Prairie suffered an unfortunate cylinder failure, the Oxfordshire line was left with no substitute at late notice. Luckily, "Sir Gomer" was at home and free of duties at Shackerstone and so was quickly signed for and despatched by road to Chinnor. The Peckett was of course my reason for visiting the railway today: I'd never been before. I arrived at just after 8:15am and was instantly met by a member of the railway's staff. He took me down to the loco area where I met Mike & Dave: "SG"s crew for the day. No1859 was simmering on shed with the fire having just been lit. Though filthy, she looked in fine fettle as she warmed up. The C & PRR has no loco shed, or pit, and therefore the loco was being steamed in a siding. The first train was diesel hauled by an 08 shunter, at 10am. The first steam service was the 11:10 which "Sir Gomer" hauled easily to Risborough; with me on the footplate
"Sir Gomer" at Risborough
 Most of the outward run is downhill, apart from the sharp climb out of Chinnor station. At Risborough, the 0-6-0ST ran into the headshunt. Beyond the buffer stops there is 6ft of track missing (that Network Rail can replace when they want) and then the line continues to Risborough and the main line. The C & PRR hope one day to continue to Risborough to meet with more possible passengers!
Driver Mike was on the handle today and seemed to handle "Sir Gomer" very well
The engine was soon on the front of the train and Dave was making up the fire. He said that the climb back would be a challenge, particularly for a slow moving industrial. Thoughts of Pontypool raced through my mind. The Peckett feathered at the valves hauling 3 coaches and 'Mardy Monster' up the 1 in 24, loving it all the way. So, I thought, it wouldn't be an issue. However, the C & PRR has a few slacks, with one of them being at the foot of the lengthy 1 in 68 bank. All that slogging mixed with a small-ish boiler (compared to the cylinders) seemed to take it out of the powerful Peckett and she steamed quite poorly: very out of character! But, nevertheless, we soldiered on
With the fire made up, the 4-coach train was dragged out of Risborough and around the tight bend, over a level crossing and then on towards Chinnor
Beautiful countryside surrounds the C & PRR. Of course, it is best viewed from the footplate!
Lovely Countryside
 After an unusual first run, we returned to the prep area as the railway's 3rd train of the day is diesel-hauled to allow for coaling, watering and crew lunches. The 3rd trip done, we returned to the train and I was allowed to have a go at firing. Mind you, it was very hard going and I struggled as the real crew did. However, when Dave returned to the shovel for the 3rd run it was a completely different story and she seemed to run much much better. I suppose it helps if you know the line very well too! After a 3rd run on the footplate I decided to call it a day. The 70-mile drive home was playing on my mind and I felt that if I rode on the last trip (the 4:30) then I wouldn't get home until at least 7:30, rather than 6pm if I left at this point. So, after checking the engine one more time and thanking the crew, I headed home. The C & PRR had been very friendly to me and I had enjoyed my visit very much. It is a very pretty, rural and enthusiastic little railway.
"Sir Gomer" In A Typical GWR Setting
Throughout my visit to the loco, I was filming the odd few bits & bobs. The footage I shot can be seen below:
 All in all, a very enjoyable day. I've noted a few jobs that need doing on "Sir Gomer" when she comes home and so I look forward to having her back at Shackerstone. If you live in the Oxfordshire area and want a ride behind "Sir Gomer", she is remaining at Chinnor until June at present. See the railways website for more details. Well, thats it from me for today folks. Cheers. Sam.

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