|'Good Lord, Dave!'|
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 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|
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|
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...