Sunday, 21 October 2012

Friendly Faces Experience...

Hi there guys. This morning at 6am, whilst the world slept, I was pulling up at a cold and dark Shackerstone Station, ready to light 3803. The big Western was sat in her normal position in the shed, toasty warm after a good day out the day before. I clambered onto the footplate and opened the water gauge glass: 3/4s...spot on. The pressure read a depressing 10psi but thats alot better than nothing, believe it or not. Then came the bit you dread...the firebox. What will you see? Will it still be lit? Will it be clinkered up beyond all rational belief? Moment of truth...BANG and they're open. You dare not look. This morning I was blessed with what I thought was 'not too bad'. "A light poke through with the irons" I thought, "and we'll be away". The back was fine, so was the middle, but the front: 10ft away: was solid. Though there wasn't much ash there, there was clinker and so with an unhappy sigh it was curtains to the clean day and off into the hot firebox. As soon as you're in, thats it, you're sweating. It hits you like one big unexpected rain shower. Get the job done quick and get out; thats all you can do. With the grate clear I laid the usual 1-lump thick bed of coal and then lit up with dry pallet wood and a mound of parrafin-soaked rags.

As soon as she was lit the big Western began to 'sing' away to herself, and the pressure needle looked to rise the slightest tad. I then turned my attention to the Hydrostatic lubricator which would be better off filled prior to more pressure being made. They do have 'off' positions but they're never fully steam tight...never. Up at the front of the shed, Jason had lit the Peckett "Sir Gomer" and, behind us, the guys were preparing to light the Aveling "Blue Circle". It was so-called "Friendly Faces" weekend on the railway, requiring all three steamers to be out for the crowds. However, the weather, and the events lack of appeal to the die hard 'Thomas' fans seemed to kill it off and passenger numbers were unfortunately low. With 3803 making pressure nicely it was time to do the ashpan. On this engine its a hopper type, employing two opening doors at the foot of the pan: "easy, ay?"..."Yeah right!". For some reason this pan has never operated correctly and so is a bit of a pig to get open. I ended up in the pit, ankle-deep in water and hot ash whilst Jason yanked on the opening bar at con-rod level. Using a fairly hefty steel bar I managed to "persuade" the doors to open whilst Jason continued to apply pressure from outside. Eventually, the mass of hot ash dropped and we locked up the stricken pan.
Having also been used yesterday the Peckett was very hot and, given her small size, was ready in good time. At 9:30am she was off and went across onto Platform 2 road to begin steam heating our 5-coach train. Though it wasn't freezing this morning it was very damp and so the coaches needed a good hour to get warm.
"SG" On Steam Heating Duties

At 10:30am, having got the engine ready with Driver Eddie, we swapped places with "Sir Gomer" and began heating the train ourselves. For some reason, the water valve on the back of 3803 (for the steam heat) begins to leak at anything over 20psi on our gauge. We'll have to have a look at that! Anyway, we got changed and then Eddie began making the breakfast over our simmering, thin fire. The loco hissed away happily with over 200psi on the clock and a full boiler.
The day was rostered for five trips, hauled by 3803. However, as the lads had made the effort to steam "Sir Gomer" it was decided that 'he' would haul the last train, wearing his equally ridiculous face. The engines did look friendly, kind of, but I just can't take a face seriously...can you?! Anyway, myself and Eddie had a very enjoyable day on the 38', who steamed and pulled very well. Eddie had to be the booked Driver for "Sir Gomer" on his outing and so I was left to get the 38' to bed whilst he enjoyed a ride on an engine with real, industrial grunt...the little Peckett. I've always had alot of time for "Sir Gomer" as at one time it was all we had. Even though its a simple industrial it has alot of power in it and can haul 5 or 6 coaches easily though, on a full timetable, you may only want four behind it to save her straining...it isn't built for speed! No matter how small, the engine still looked good barking out of Shack with the rake this evening, even if Eddie did get in the way of my photo ;) ...
Shackerstone Railway Society's Flagship: "Sir Gomer" (1859 of 1932)
The 38' was soon put to bed and I then left for home, just as "Sir Gomer" pulled back in after a successful run, having made good time too. Thanks Eddie, and thanks guys for reading. Cheers. Sam.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Sam, reading about your engine checking routine before you light up: do you ever check inside the smokebox for accumulated ash? Or does it take a long time to fill/or is it self-cleaning?
I don't envy you standing in a wet ash pit, as hot ash is tipped in :-O
Kind regards, Emma-claire.