Saturday, 23 June 2012

1940s Weekend On A Western...

Hi guys. Today I was spending another day on the footplate of the GWR marvel that is 3803. Myself and Dave got to the shed at just after 6am and began prepping the 2-8-0. She had received a hearty warming fire the day before and so was showing 20psi on the clock - just right. Having checked her over we lit the fire as Driver Adrian arrived. It was 1940s weekend on the railway and this would see a variety of displays at the Market Bosworth Station site. Services would be a mixture of Steam and DMU: 5 departures each. As 3803 warmed up the shed began to 'sweat' so we decided to use the Class 02 shunter to get her chimney outside. Over in Roys yard "Elsa" was steaming up ready to run back home. The traction engine had been here for almost two weeks.
"Elsa" Over The Way
With Adrian oiling round, myself and Dave set to cleaning the engine. Clambering atop the boiler allowed me to crack on with cleaning the safety valve bonnet
Our first departure was timed for 10:30am, with the first DMU run leaving 30 minutes prior. 3803 was ready to come off shed just after the DMU went out and so, after taking coal, we ran over onto the train and coupled up.
The first run was a bit rushed due to a slightly late departure but the layover at Shackerstone upon our return allowed us to take a break. The railway has just started offering "All Day Breakfast"s on special event days and they are fab. I think they are being billed as the "Battlefield Brunch" and they are a taste sensation! We just had to partake...
Battlefield Brunch
Our five runs of the day went without hitch and there was a steady stream of passengers and reenactors boarding the coaches.
1940s Exhibits at Bosworth
A few exhibits caught our eye from the loco footplate. The double-decker bus that brought in the band for the evening entertainment was one of them!
3803 steamed and pulled well, as usual! Adrian, Dave and myself had a very enjoyable day and shared the firing between us. Thanks alot guys. 3803 had again provided us with a very good day indeed. That breakfast was brilliant - I can't stop thinking about it! The following photo is from Mr Hanks' archives and shows 3803 arriving into Bosworth...
Cheers Guys! Sam.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

A Day In The Life of 3803...

Great Western Heavy Freight 2-8-0 No3803 (by M.Heseltine)
I've written many posts about the Great Western Heavy Freight 2-8-0 No3803, during her stay at the Battlefield Line. For this post, I thought I'd go for a full on 'Day in the Life' scenario. It will, without a doubt, be a long post but it should offer an insight into what goes on during one of the 2-8-0s regular outings at Shackerstone. With that, lets begin. 5:30am: Here I come, stumbling along Platform 1 in a tired daze and looking up at the threatening clouds above. Reaching for the increasingly hard to find lightswitch in the Staff Room, I end up dropping most of my kit onto the floor. No matter. Finding a pen (probably once of Argos ownership being only 2 inches long) I sign my name, member number, duty and time-on as usual. From here its a downward path to the loco shed. As I approach the works its walls creek as if being disturbed by the morning wind, prompting me to walk a little faster as I feel a chill on the June breeze. A key in the door turned swiftly 180-degrees to the right allows me access to the works where 3803 stands just inside the rusty metal door. Having been used yesterday (if briefly) the loco is still very warm and a quick glance at the pressure gauge from ground level reveals 40psi remaining - good stuff. Having changed I clamber up onto the footplate and examine the water level - 4/5 of a glass. Now its time to check the firebox. Luckily, all is well and the few remaining ashes from yesterdays fire can be removed easily with the long iron & bent dart. A strong bed of coal 1-lump thick and a pile of dry wood are then dropped onto the grate. Using three carefully placed parrafin-soaked rags the wood is soon set ablaze...
6:05am: With a good wood fire burning in the box you can begin adding coal when you feel the fire is strong enough to get it alight. Adding coal before the wood has properly taken can either put the fire out or reduce it to a small glow with the result releasing very little heat. In the case of today, 3803 began singing almost straight away and stuck at 40psi rather than dropping down.
3803's Fire Is Alight
Soon enough, the locomotive started to make steam. As we were not due off shed until 9am I decided not to use the blower straight away. Adding more coal when it was gradually required I soon had a small coal fire burning. My usual method is to build up the fire towards the back 1/2 of the box and make this section strong. All the time, the fire is gradually burning the coal in front of it, soon reaching the front of the firebox. Sometimes it is necessary to use the long-iron to push some hot embers forward to get the front-most coal going. Whilst the engine sang away I decided to fill the isolated Hydrostatic Lubricator. This is done by draining the chamber of water before adding more Steam Oil. Once a strong level of oil (a full chamber) is achieved then the top is replaced. The lubricator will later be used to oil the regulator and cylinders. 6:30am: Trainee Fireman James arrived as I made a welcome cup of tea. We then had a chat about the day ahead and recent events at the railway. Meanwhile, the 1939-built 38xx continued to create steam outside the Machine Shop, in the Running Shed.
The View Over Your Cuppa' - Impressive, Ay?!
7:00am: The locomotive is now warming up nicely and Driver Eddie duly arrived. The three of us then set about oiling up the engine. The 2-8-0 has a variety of oiling points on everything from the 16 axleboxes to the Stephenson valve gear. There are also various oil pots on top of the running boards and underneath too. Oiling up this beast tends to take at least an hour if all is going well. Myself & James went around the outside motion and the external boxes whilst Eddie clambered inside the frames to oil the motion, 6 of the axleboxes and to grease the pony-pin. During the oiling process we also carry out various visual checks on the engine to make sure nothing is falling off, broken, lost or damaged. The Leaf Springs are one of 3803s regular 'injuries' and so we often check them to make sure all is well. With everything oiled up we turned our minds to ashing her out. The fire was now fully ablaze and well under way with no blower on and only the centre damper open. By now she had 100psi on the clock.

Raising Steam

The ashpan on 3803 is a hopper type. This allows it to open fully from underneath, thus effectively dropping the ash. 8:30am: With all three dampers open (to allow the interlocking doors to release), myself & Eddie began wrenching the opening handle. Nothing. In fact, we began to wonder if there was any ash in there. One more significant push was rewarded by a mammoth cloud of ash and soot from, well, everywhere! Having shook the pan a few times we locked it up before dusting off the engine. Two of the dampers were then also dropped to prevent us 'bringing the loco round' too quickly (too much expansion all in one go is not fabulous for your boiler and its components). It was now time for another cuppa' before returning to the footplate to check all was well again. 140psi on the clock and a glowing fire allowed us to carefully move the engine out of the shed and into the so-called yard (now our prep area, as of the last few years). Here, 3803 was scotched (not chocked...thats for planes) and screwed down on the handbrake. It was now time to clean the engine, with help from Dave.
A Western On Midland Rails - 3803
One thing that was a little odd about this morning was that our booked 'Footplate Experience' participants hadn't turned up. Normally they get to the shed at about 8am but 45 minutes later than this there was still no sign of them. Luckily, as I walked down towards the North End yard in search of them, a modern Ford creation came into view. "Phew". After greeting the Foot-Ex people we took our 'Driver' down to the loco yard to see 3803 and undertake the usual Safety Briefing and Control Explanation - told today by Eddie. 9:00am: We steamed out of Shackerstone (light engine) for the usual familiarisation trip to Market Bosworth. The line was quiet but scenic, with the weater seemingly trying to pick-up a bit. Back at Shack we coupled up to the currently 4-coach long train before running all the way to Shenton. Here, we ran round before getting ready to head for home.
10:25am: The Footplate Experience Driver certainly seemed to enjoy himself. Eddie offered continuous instruction and encouragement; as is the usual practise; throughout the journey.
10:45am: Arrival back at Shackerstone's Platform 2. The locomotive was in her usual fine form and was steaming brilliantly on minimal fire. The engine was then pulled into Platform 1 for photographs and the usual handing over of the Certificate and other paperwork. This is where we bid goodbye to our Footex Participants as they join the train for a bite to eat.
Creeping Through The Points at Shackerstone's North End
Having completed a successful Foot-Ex we took 3803 over the cross-over before being given the signal to drop down onto the stock for the first run of the day. The sun was just starting to come out and our worries about having to put the sheet on slowly began to subside. At 11:15, we pulled away with the first run to Shenton. 3803 was steaming well on a fairly level fire with only the centre damper being used. For alot of the journey you could run with the doors open and the flap up to provide a little more top-air. This would see the loco holding around 215psi for minute after minute, and 3/4 of a glass of water. All you had to do was fill holes in where they appeared and she would be as nice as pie (for now!).
Away From Far Coton, Towards Shenton
During this first run the sun finally begain to shine and we enjoyed some warm spells whilst running tender-first. 11:30am: The sun is high in the sky as we chuff around onto the Shenton Embankment, with the well known Flag of the Boar flying proudly in the distance. Driver Eddie shut-off as we approached the straight, allowing 3803 to coast the rest of the way. The track here descends to Shenton Station and the end of the line, with the train being slowed on the vacuum brake to prevent anything 'running away'. When everything is going well with the loco, you sometimes get a chance to look out and admire the view. Well, the Fireman does anyway - the Driver is always concentrating. The Battlefield Line is at the heart of rural England and thus, on a run like this, it shows itself to be beautifully scenic. Shenton Embankment; particularly since the D-Veg team have been working in this area lately; is very pretty.
11:42am: 3803 has been uncoupled and driven into the headshunt. The points have then be switched to allow her access into the run-round loop. We will now run-round onto the front of the train ready for the returning 11:50 journey to Shackerstone.
3803 at Sunny Shenton (by M.Heseltine)
11:50am: We depart Shenton with two paying 'Footplate Pass' holders joining us in the cab. One is a Gift whilst the other is the chance to fulfill one of the those lifelong dreams. 3803 steamed beautifully on the way back to Shackerstone, chuffing past never-ending rolling fields and of course alongside the Ashby Canal. Back at Shackerstone we ran round again before catching a cuppa' from 'Jessie' (the Buffet Car). Our return run to Shenton saw Trainee James rejoin us as one of the footplate riders was taking a walk near Shackerstone with his family. This run was equally good, though the fire was beginning to clinker a little as we pulled out of Market Bosworth. Sure enough, the forgiving nature of 3803 saw us get to Shenton with little hassle. 12:55pm: Whilst Eddie & James sorted the coupling out, I used the bent dart to free up a large sheet of clinker that had formed on the back 1/4 of the grate. Having broken up this clinker there was little fire left at the rear of the box so I had to rebuild it using fresh coal asap. We had 2/3 of a glass and 200psi once again when 3803 rejoined the front of the train for the trip back. As I say, she is very forgiving. To be honest, she hasn't really let us down at all since arriving from the SDR in March 2011. It'll be a shame to see her go...(when she goes)...
1:03pm: The fire is now burning brightly again and, for some reason, the back damper was operating much better than normal so we decided to use that rather than the centre one on the way back. This would theoretically allow much more air through the back end of the fire (which is often thicker than the rest) than is possible with the centre damper only, thus hopefully giving better draft and reducing the risk of more clinker.
Driver Eddie Larking About On 3803
1:07pm: Slightly late, but off we go back towards Shackerstone: 5 miles to the north. But, in what seems like no time at all (actually an hour) we are back at Shenton for the 4th time today.
3803 at Shenton With The 1:45pm From Shack
2:55pm: The engine needed water after her 4th return trip to Shenton and back. So, having buffered up to the train and coupled on, we decided to take a thousand gallons.
3803 Cab

Whilst I was up on the tender of 3803, Dave was in the shed mixing water treatment for her. This was soon poured into her tender and with 2000 gallons on the gauge we decided we had enough on board. Due to taking water we were now about 5 minutes down, though we did make some up by accelerating swiftly out of Shackerstone. 3803 was still in fine form as we chugged down the line, proving her worth as usual. After a long whistle on the approach to Market Bosworth we pulled up in the semi-populated platform. A few people joined the train and the Guard got ready to wave his flag and give us the 'Right Away'. However, just as he went to raise his arm he was stopped. Apparently more passengers wanted to join the train. However, we had lost another 5 minutes by the time they had made it to us. 3803 sat feathering loudly in the platform as, before the wait, the fire had been made up for the climb out of the station and on through Far Coton towards Shenton.
3803 Waits Inpatiently At Bosworth
3:30pm: The locomotive moves off the train at Shenton ready for the run-round. The sun had returned by this point, having been mixed with some rain showers during the afternoon.
3:55pm: By now, though still late, we were romping along the line away from Hedleys and up towards the top of the bank before descending into Shackerstone.
Chugging Away from Hedleys
4:00pm: Arrival at Shackerstone
Driver Eddie Bringing 3803 Into Shackerstone
5:05pm: Back at Hedleys again and 3803 is climbing back towards home for the last time today. Dave joined us on this run and is spotted on the Firemans side with Eddie on the regulator. Dave fired this trip whilst I enjoyed the scenary.
5:30pm: The locomotive is back in the shed safe & sound. Her fire is almost dead, her boiler is full and she has around 120psi of steam on the clock. She is handbraked and scotched with the drain taps open, the regulator closed and the mid-gear position assumed. That'll do for today. 12 hours and 66 miles or so after it began, the day is done. 3803 had performed very well indeed and I think myself, Eddie and James all had an enjoyable day on her footplate.
Trainee James, Driver Eddie and Fireman Me on 3803 (by M.Heseltine)
I hope you have enjoyed this insight into a day on the footplate at the Battlefield Line through the Fireman's eyes. I have tried to include as much detail and interest as possible - whether it worked or not I don't know! Sometimes I feel like we take for granted what we get to do almost every weekend but, by writing these posts, I hope I can share some of it with others. Cheers guys. Sam...

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Birthday Special at RPMR...

Hi everyone. Today I was at CMES for a few hours, driving 0-4-0 5" gauge Sweet Pea "John H Owen". As of this year the club has been offering the railway for hire for Birthday parties, in association with the country park. Bookings have been coming in steadily but this was the first actual date that we had a party coming. The running time was 1:30pm until 2:30pm, according to the roster. I arrived at just after Midday and began prepping the little steam engine. Crackling away with a good wood fire in the box she came round relatively quickly and sat simmering on the prep road.
The weather up until now had been relatively warm and sunny. However this soon turned cold, wet and dead on 1:30pm! The rain fell heavily, soaking everything - particularly the rails. The two trains were squeezed together underneath the Station's overall roof to try and keep the trucks dry. The format for the event was to give as many rides as we could during the 1-hour slot, using "John Owen" with myself driving. The Class 37 (with 2 cars) would then be driven by the Birthday Girl; supervised by a CMES member of course. The 37's train was protected using an Emergency Stop switch fitted to the rear truck. If anything went wrong then hitting that switch would cut power to the loco immediately. Luckily, all seemed well today!
As we waited for the rain to ease and for the party to arrive, the Pea simmered away quietly. With the blower just cracked and 3/4 of a glass in the boiler she would sit quite happily with her safety valves feathering lightly. Opening the firedoor just a tad would prevent full blowing off if you wanted it to.
Sure enough, through the rain they came and the party duly arrived. There were about 20 children, which were supervised by a group of at least 12 adults. This doesn't seem like many but it is when trying to fit them all under one roof! Pete soon gave the briefing and we began. The 37 headed off with the Birthday girl driving and Pete on the back with the E-Stop. Meanwhile, "John Owen" was ready to go with a full load of 3 cars and a Guard's truck.

I could see that the rails ahead were very wet indeed, and covered in rust. With the rain still lightly falling we decided to risk it and with the 'Right Away' received I cracked the regulator. Nothing. A little more and the Pea edged forward before slipping violently. Shutting off instantly and opening up again got her going but notching up was a complete no-no until you got the weight moving at walking pace. Notching up seemed to cause even more slipping if carried out too early. With momentum behind us I could leave the regulator around 1/3 open and notch up to 2nd notch. Crossing the bridge you could give her 1/2 regulator and 3rd notch with her barking well and gripping nicely. Once off the bridge the train would push you (as expected) down the slope, across the Bendy Beam and on towards the Carriage sheds. This is a good time to check the fire, add coal if necessary and of course add water using the Crosshead pump(s). The foot of the bank soon came into view and I was aware that any excessive slipping would stop us dead. Stopping of course would mean pushing as the Pea would never start on a 1 in 70 with this load and on soaking rails. With the fire built up and 70psi on the clock I put the loco into full forward gear and left her with just over 1/3 of regulator. On her own she plodded up the bank, slowing as she did so. Anymore regulator and she would slip so there was no point even trying to keep up line-speed. Nearing the top she slipped violently but I was determined to keep her going even if it meant crawling over the summit at a snails-pace. Sure enough she clambered over the top with the train almost at a standstill BUT still moving! The loco could then be taken back to 3rd notch again for the less taxing run back to Ryton Halt where we exchanged our first load for an even heavier one. Good lord what a slog. Nevertheless the loco never needed a push throughout her 8 or so laps on this very wet afternoon. The one time we stopped in section was due to a passenger car error.
I am always very impressed with how well this little engine steams, pulls and recovers. She is a great asset to the club in my eyes. The Birthday party seemed to go off well despite the weather and I think a good time was had by all...I certainly enjoyed it! I'll next be at CMES for their next Birthday event on July 8th and driving (you guessed it) "John Owen". Cheers guys. Sam...

Sunday, 10 June 2012

A Day On "Jessie"...

Hi guys. A short and sweet day today on the Buffet Car "Jessie" at Shackerstone. I was working the bar on behalf of the Catering Department. I do this job a few times a year when I'm not either firing the loco's or working in the shed. As I left at 6pm I heard a loud whistle and, just like that, "Elsa" appeared up the driveway at the back of the station. What a lovely traction engine...
Cheers guys - thats all for now. Sam...

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Achilles Report No14 - Fish, Chips and Success...

Hi everyone. Today we attended the 3rd annual Fish 'n' Chip Steam-Up at Ryton; home of Coventry Model Engineering Society and their 3.5"/5" raised track. CMES is of course the home club of my 5" gauge locomotive "Achilles" which was, naturally, in attendance. This event had been brilliant the last two times it was held and it was equally good this year. We arrived at 4pm (the official start time) and immediately saw many locomotives already there: either on the track or on the steaming bays. The turn-out already seemed pretty good. Using the hydraulic lift we unloaded "Achilles" before rolling her onto the traverser spur. As there were no other cars queuing up to unload engines we decided that we would steam up where we were. Thus, "Achilles" was filled, oiled and lit where she stood. After around 25 minutes she was in steam and feathering lightly at just under the 90psi blow-off pressure. The new blower arrangement (1 hole of larger diameter instead of 3 holes at a tiny diameter) seemed to be working fine and so, after connecting the riding truck, we continued onto the track. The weather was lovely: the sun was shining and the skies were blue. Saying that, we always seem to be 'lucky' (dare I say it) with this event. "Achilles" had a successful first lap of the 2000ft-long track and so we duly connected one of the railways passenger trucks too. With this consist the maximum load we can carry is about 4 adults which; considering the lenghty 1 in 70 climb; is about right for the loco. She pulls 4 adults relatively easily, at line-speed without struggling, which is fine by me.
"Achilles" & Train With Ryton Pool In The Distance
We ran for about an hour before my family arrived and began taking their various rides. During the first hour my brother drove the engine and she seemed in good form. The family took their turns on the RPMR passenger car, whilst I drove from my truck. "Achilles" pulled well on each of her return journeys around the track and steamed surprisingly well with the deflector in the chimney. This deflector is worth its weight in gold when it comes to carrying the family. (Why do mum's always think pure white clothing is appropriate for steam locomotive travel?!). Having given each family member a couple of rides it was almost time for tea - served at 6:30pm. Emma (the event organiser) turned up with a huge pile of Fish 'n' Chips...YUM! By this time only "Achilles" and Paul's Sweet Pea were left on the track and both sat simmering away with relatively full boilers whilst members and guests enjoyed their dinner. The sun was just beginning to set and the weather could not have been better - once again. The chips this year were particularly good - I really enjoyed them.
Eventually "Achilles" started to feather again so, rather than pump furiously with the handpump, I decided to take her round the track and use the axlepump to do the job, whilst also quietening the fire. It must have looked pretty odd with me driving whilst trying not to drop a battered fish!
Me Driving - Chips In Hand (by E.Furminger)
After the chips we probably completed another 3 or 4 laps with the loco before retiring
This time, even when we were coming off the track the blower was still very powerful if you wanted it to be. It seems that the repairs have been successful - thank goodness. Once on No1 Bay we dropped the fire, blew-down the boiler and drained the tanks.
"Achilles" Blows Down
All in all, another successful day at RPMR and another good run for "Achilles". According to my records this is the 14th steaming that I've done with the loco since acquiring it in mid-July last year (not bad going in my eyes!). I'm very pleased with her today. Cheers guys. Sam...

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Hunslet Week Day 5: One More Day...

Hi everyone. Well, here it is - the final day of our early summer excursion to Bala Lake. Three days after our arrival and countless cups of tea on top, we awoke this morning to prep the loco for our third day on the footplate. The usual morning antics took place as we prepped the loco in the sun. Though the weather was unsettled again, that little bit of warm sun made all the difference whilst on shed.
Cleaning The Rods
Being a Wednesday morning and relatively fine weather, the infamous Wednesday gang were arriving one after the other. With the gang assembled and a plan set to work on the track for the day, the trusty P-Way truck was pressed into action. This truck was built by Bruce (the P-Way man) with help from Rob and a few others, on site at Bala Lake. Resembling a Wickham trolley, this petrol-engined 4-wheeler has been worth its weight in gold since its been finished and does exactly what Bruce wants it to. It can seat 4 workers and can be removed from the track by human hand alone. It has working horns, a headlamp and of course the essential brakes, not to mention a hob with gas for the kettle! With its trusty tow-hook it can pull a trolley loaded with tools quite happily down the line and back again. I must admit, it does look pretty cool. With everything loaded, 4 of the gang set off on it at 10:30am, with the remainder of the crew heading by road to the work site. This was the first time I'd met Bruce in particular: another nice guy.
Back with me and Ed, we'd prepared "Maid Marian" and soon left for the far headshunt for the usual watering and coaling. With the bank holiday now over, the fighter jets were out for their flying sessions again. They often fly low over Bala Lake, loudly but gracefully. Of course, those jets are something that I work with during my day job, indirectly of course. Down on the ground, "Maid Marian" simmered quietly whilst having a drink
Me Shovelling Coal Into "Marian"s Bunker
Soon enough we were ran round and on the train
Todays trains were also pretty well-filled. "Maid Marian" was in fine form once again and chugged happily along her home line alongside the lake. The sun shined brightly in between the odd shower and patches of cloud whilst the little red engine took her daily 40 miles in her stride.
Beautiful View
As usual, the views over the lake were stunning
Llyn Tegid is at its best in the sun
One thing that was definately different for us today was having somebody on the line in front of us. The track gang were down on the lakeside, right on the waters edge. They were moving and repacking sleepers to provide a better ride. As we approached in either direction we would whistle loudly before being shown a yellow flag (in order to slow up). We would then be given a green flag when the line was clear of workmen and tools, though we would still continue over the section at a reduced speed for safety reasons. I must admit, we noticed a real difference in that section of track as the day went on. Bruce worked for BR in a similar capacity and therefore has a wealth of knowledge for dealing with the permanent way. Good luck to them - it was much better.
"Maid Marian" Edges Through The Slack Where The Track Gang Were Working. I Am On The Firemans Side (Photograph By Bob Shell - BLR Driver/Wednesday Gang)
After another very enjoyable day we returned to the shed before disposing of "Marian" one more time. The P-Way truck and trolley soon returned before we all made our way up to the station for a cuppa'. It had been three very enjoyable days on the Bala Lake again. I must thank everyone for making me (and Eddie of course) so welcome once again. Its not like working on a railway, its like being on holiday. We haven't had a bad day yet which, in my mind, is something to be proud of. At 7pm we were back in Eddie's car and waving goodbye to the station. Rolling along the quiet welsh lanes (over Knockin and beyond) we talked of our next return visit, for the gala in August. Look forward to posts on that as it happens. Thanks guys. Sam.