Saturday, 15 September 2012

Shackerstone Gala: Saturday on the Prairie...

Hi everyone. Well, finally, after all that anticipation the gala has arrived! I arrived at Shackerstone in darkness at just before 5:30am and waddled up to the shed. Everyone was there and getting on with preparing their various engines. My driver Adrian and trainee Dave were already with 5521 and were cleaning her grate. We checked the firebox before Dave got a roaring fire going. The prairie started singing almost immediately and was quick on the road to the boil. 3803 and the Black 5 were also lit, with "Sir Gomer" being lit not long after. "Blue Circle"s owner turned in at around 7:30 in order to get steam up on his Aveling. At one point we almost had to evacuate the shed as five smoking locomotives inside it created quite a dark atmosphere. Indeed, we could hardly draw breath! Dave was certainly doing his fair share of smoking us out using the Prairie...
'Good Lord, Dave!'
Soon enough "Sir Gomer" moved out from the shed and stood in the south yard raising more steam. It was so nice to see her home (and clean) again.
We got 5521 steaming pretty soon and the blower was put on at 40psi. I must admit you could barely tell that it had a blower; it was pretty much useless! The 5521 engine rep later explained to me that the prairie has been fitted with a Pannier blast pipe and thus the blower ring is part of the exhaust port for the vacuum ejector. Therefore, not only is the blower loud (as the ejector is) but there is also no real concentrated draft, so the blower requires a little more steam than is required on the 38'. I was a little worried that the loco would not make sufficient steam in time for our 9am double-headed departure with 45379 but luckily she proved us wrong. We ashed her out manually (no hopper on this one!) over the pit before taking her outside. The Black 5 had already gone off shed and was sitting in the south yard whilst 3803 stood in front of us. The freight train was still being marshalled by the 08 shunter as we finished raising steam and cleaning the Western outside the shed.
The steam locomotives were all waiting for their turns and the photographers were already out in force. It was fantastic to see all those engines in steam and ready to go. In my 7 years with the Battlefield Line I've never seen such a sight on shed. Luckily the freight was marshalled just in time for the departure at 9am and we steamed out into Platform 1 road on 5521 at 8:55am. We buffered up to Pockets' brakevan with the loco before I coupled it up. The train was at least 10 wagons long. The Black 5 then dropped down on top of us, feathering at the valves. At just gone 9am the Guard blew his whistle and waved his green flag and so we were off. I wasn't sure how 5521 was going to steam (having never fired her before) and so kept a thin, level fire with an extra few shovelfull's in the back corners. Gradually; with much hissing from the drain cocks on both loco's; we pulled away. Slowly but surely, over the crossing and past the signalbox we puffed.
Fireman Sam Brandist Looks Out from 5521 Departing Shackerstone On The 9am (N.Bates)
We seemed to be working the Prairie very hard with the Five virtually doing nothing. However she did sound in very good voice. The Pannier blast pipe created a fabulous draw on the fire. In fact, when firing, you had to be careful to hold onto the shovel as she really did try to suck it clean out of your hands! At Shenton; 20 odd minutes later; the duo were uncoupled and the Five ran round onto the new head of the train, leaving 5521 on layover.
We had a cuppa' whilst we waited for the arrival of 3803 on the first down passenger at 10am. The Prairie meanwhile simmered quitely away to herself, showing off her massive air compressor used during her mainline visit to Poland a few years ago.
The layover allowed us to relax and chat, sharing a joke with my great crew of Adrian and David.
Aidy & David
The 38' arrived a little late so we ran round straight away and took up our place at the head of the train. I fired the loco once again, with 5521 then taking us back to Shackerstone with Adrian on the regulator.
After a spirited run back (attempting to make up time) we took a little water on the column before time forced us across to the south pit road, where we parked up behind a simmering "Sir Gomer".
Little "Gomer" with 5521 Behind
The day went on with 5521, 3803 and 45379 sharing the departures, whilst "Sir Gomer" and "Blue Circle" circulated at Shackerstone, with the latter offering Brakevan Rides. The sun was also on our side, continually shining all day.
Our third and final departure of the day was from Shackerstone at 3pm. I drove this departure whilst Dave fired and Adrian enjoyed the views. Another layover at Shenton was rewarded by the arrival of 3803 for our double-headed (oh yes!) run back to Shack. Today was the first time I've been on a double-headed train, let alone two in the same day! The fabulous pairing left on time and we had an absolutely brilliant run back. I chuffing loved it.
Westerns Ready to Leave Shenton
Following our arrival back at Shack, "Sir Gomer" departed on her 5:45pm return passenger. The Peckett ran the whole line on her own without fault before handing over to 45379 for the 7pm "Pie and Chip" special out of Shackerstone. We joined the special as 3803, "BC" and 5521 had already gone to bed. Enjoying a pie on the train behind a Black 5 over a bottle of real ale was brilliant and well deserved we thought. I eventually left Shack at 9pm for home. Tomorrow I'm on the Black 5 and thus will be in at 5am once again. I cannot wait!

Finally, here is a video taken today by Mike Snow of Steam on the Web. It really is a great compilation of what occurred today...enjoy...

Cheers guys. Sam...


Anonymous said...

Hi Sam, I can see that you had a really good time at the Shack steam gala. Your enjoyment really shows through! Actually watching the video, I can see what you mean about the "5" doing nothing on the front of the 9am freight. You can hear a loco slipping a few times, I guess that was your Prairie? Why didn't the "5" open up a bit? Sadly I missed the steam gala, as I was at a birthday party on Saturday and at Leighton Buzzard on the Sunday for their Great Slate Quarry fest, which was also totally awesome with 8 locos in steam and lots of triple heading. So many steam galas, so little time...
Kind regards, Emma-claire.

Sam Brandist said...

Hi Emma. The "5" did open up but she kept slipping - thats what you could hear slipping away. It could not get its feet down. The prairie however stuck like glue and shoved the "5" easily up the cutting, though working hard. I think we had 1 notch off full gear in main valve, hence the strong exhaust. She really pushed well. I was interested in the Leighton gala but of course would not get off the "5" to visit it!! :)