Saturday, 2 June 2012

Hunslet Week Day 2: Steaming at Statfold...

Twelve Raise Steam at Statfold
Hi guys. This morning at 6:30am (following a McDonalds breakfast on route) I arrived at Statfold for the Open Day. Many of the crews for the twelve-strong fleet of rostered engines were already on site, prepping their locomotives in the fine rain. Myself and John were rostered on the only cabless loco in action today: 2005-built Quarry Hunslet "Jack Lane". Armed with parrafin rags, a bag of dry wood and the footplate tools I set to lighting the Quarry. My friend Phil (SBR Staff) insisted that the loco be brought round on wood. In other words, no coal until you almost have steam on the clock. I did what he said and kept "Jack Lane" on the dry wood for as long as possible. Meanwhile, other engines were stirring slowly into life, such as "Isibutu", the Mallet and "Harrogate". The shed area was a wash with drifting smoke and the scent of burning wood: it was brilliant! Myself and John (between cups of tea) prepared our engine together and had her looking shiney by the time the enthusiasts began to arrive. 500 people were expected on this damp morning and so all of the engines had to look their best. Following the safety briefing on the lawn, the first engine to leave shed was the Corpet, driven by Mr Lee himself.
Todays open day saw four train rakes in action on the field railway: two passenger rakes, a mixed set and a freight train. Due to the amount of engines in action, we simply had to wait our turn. As "Jack Lane" and "Statfold" were at the 'back of the pile' we were last off shed, leaving at just before 11:30am. From them on, engines rotated in the same order all day.
Ashing Out Before We Go
Our first run was in reverse, led by "Statfold". Due to a brake system error, our train had to be tailed by the beefy Peckett "Harrogate". We didn't mind as it gave us something more to pull! With a green flag from the Guard and a clear from the Station Master, away we went. Out of the station it is downhill before the power comes on so we can steam away from Statfold, over the standard gauge cross-over, passing the tri-gauge Garden Railway on the right hand side. There is then a blind right-hand bend into the first field where all engines must slow and then sound their whistle loudly. From here, trains accelerate before shutting off to coast to Oak Tree Halt, where there is a passing loop and another large collection of stock in nearby covered storage. Train Staffs are exchanged here with the returning set before we are cleared into the next section. We then descend a VERY steep bank before curving left onto the bottom field. From here it is a brisk chuff along a well laid line to the Baloon Loop where the staff is surrendered. There will already be a train in the loop waiting to go and so, with the staff received, off they go back to Statfold. The train that has just arrived meanwhile waits patiently for the next arrival. This is a good time to make up your fire and water level as running backwards up that climb is hard going, particularly as your water goes to the bottom nut at anything less than 1/2 a glass!
"Jack Lane" at the Baloon Loop
"Jack Lane" seemed to steam and ride very well and the views from her footplate in the overcast weather were great. Sister loco "Statfold" also seemed to be running well, apart from suffering the whirring noise through her damper which is caused by too much air entering the small firebox. This is the central cause for leaking tubes on these engines. Luckily, there was no such problem on "Jack Lane". Leaving the loop we chuffed hard along the bottom field to get a good run up the bank. With two well filled coaches, a brake truck and the heavy Peckett dead on the back we would need all the steam we could get. Hitting the foot of the bank both engines were at near enough full regulator and the noise was fantastic. The Peckett crew leaned out for a listen, as did most of the passengers! Mind you, any less regulator and we probably would not have made it. The bank, though short, is very steep indeed. Returning to Statfold we sat for just over an hour again before returning to work, with "Jack Lane" leading this time. This run was easier, with no Peckett on the rear. Again, she steamed very well and we reached the baloon loop in good time for the 5-minute or so wait. Visitors seemed very impressed with the little engines and their capabilities.
Double-Headed Quarry's
After another good run back to Statfold we pulled into Platform 1 and then had a sit-down, admiring the green 0-4-0 as she simmered away. I was very surprised at how easily you could control her steam pressure. Her blowing off pressure was 160psi though with the damper shut and blower off you could keep her at about 158psi with the safetys lightly feathering and the fire quiet. She seemed to sit like that for as long as you wanted: perfect.
Simmering In Platform 1
We had a 3rd and final loaded run, this time on the freight which was also enjoyable. Back at Statfold we were asked to go and collect the train staffs light engine. I drove this trip and it was very pleasant. Having completed the job we steamed back to Statfold yard and were uncoupled from "Statfold" herself. The next and final job was the cavalcade. All twelve engines would steam around the circuit and then line up on the gradient near the Statfold home signal for photographs. I drove "Jack Lane" again on this run and it was very pleasant.
Some Of The Cavalcade: No1, No5, "Isibutu", "Harrogate", "Trangkil", "Sragi", Surrey Council and the Corpet
Following the cavalcade, all of the engines returned to the yard for disposal and cleaning. The event had been another success for the SBR and everyone seemed very happy. I must thank John for being my driver and thank Phil for actually inviting me to crew at the open day: I really enjoyed it. Mr Lee has got a fantastic set up here and long may it continue to prosper. Brilliant. Finally, the following video was taken on the day. It shows a few of the locos in action but the clip at 4 minutes in shows "Jack Lane" (us) and "Statfold" attacking the bank...well worth seeing (and hearing!)...
The following photo has kindly been cleared for use by its owner Invercloy (from Flickr). It shows myself and John descending the bank on "Jack Lane", with "Statfold" behind...
Cheers guys. Sam...

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