The first job was to open up the smokebox and check/clean the tubes. Next I cleaned out the smokebox ash and then shut up the door. I then moved to the firebox end. On the Quarry Hunslets, the firebars used in the 2ft x 1ft firebox are small enough to be easily lifted out, allowing the old fire and ash to be pushed through by hand. This is normally a pretty quick task but the previous fire had happened to be severely clinkered. In the end I had to get the rake in to break it up before removing the larger sheets by hand. Eventually, the grate was clean and I could then ash her out. Finally, with 1/4 of a glass of water (the outside of the shed leaves the loco facing downgrade) I could light her up. I placed some dry wood in the box with some parrafin-soaked wood on top. I then used two soaking (with diesel) rags to get the fire going before adding more dry wood and then coal where applicable. Slowly but surely, as we cleaned her, "Alice" (of 1902) warmed up and came round. At 11:05am; 10 minutes before time; we were on the train and ready to go.I'd never been on "Alice" before, though I have been on both of her working sister engines: "Holy War" and "Maid Marian". I was worried that the very much 'open' nature of the footplate would unnerve me a little but luckily I had only just spent a day on the cabless new-build Hunslet "Jack Lane" at Statfold. Leaving Llanuwchllyn on time with the 5-coach set, we descended the bank and picked up speed. "Alice" steamed beautifully and you could fire her very lightly (as I learnt as the day passed). She also seemed to ride better than her sisters: maybe its the lack of cab weight on the back axle? Who knows. Anyway, after a sunny chug along the side of Bala Lake we reached the terminus in good time and ran round.
The cabless nature of "Alice" does promote good views of both the countryside and the railway, in both directions. In the return direction, it also allows passengers a pretty good view of our activities on the footplate.
|Romping Out of Bala|
"Alice" romped along beautifully and we were soon back at Llangower (15 minutes from Bala). This little station is right on the lakeside and today it was quite busy with those either enjoying the views or doing a bit of the old watersport.
|"Alice" On The Shores of Llyn Tegid at Llangower|
The rest of the day went just as good as the first trip did. "Alice" rode, pulled and steamed very well and I think we were both suitably impressed with her. The weather also remained good, with bursts of warm sun coupled with cloudly moments...but with no rain in sight! Train loadings also seemed very good, with alot of the runs only having a few seats remaining free...particularly in the open stock.
|Driver Eddie Jones on "Alice"|