Sunday, 9 December 2012

Christmas on 3803...

Hi guys. Today at 5:30am I was staggering blurry-eyed into the loco shed at Shackerstone. I was down for another rostered turn on the GWR 2-8-0 No3803, which was simmering away with 80psi still on the clock after a late, evening train the night before. Today we would be performing four round trips to the tried & tested 'Santa Special' timetable, with departures at 10am, Midday, 2pm and 4pm. Naturally the 4pm would be performed under the cover of darkness with only our parrafin headlamps and cab handlamps as illumination.
The first thing to do was to check the water level as normal, which read a healthy 4/5 of a glass. It was then time to check the firebox: all tight and nothing to report. However, on a Sunday morning in particular, when there has been a full fire in the box the day before, the Fireman must often go into the box armed with a torch and a brush to clear the ash. The fire-irons can be handled from the cab in order to break up the worst of the clinker and pull back some of the ash but for large piles there is no option but to clamber inside; no matter how much you don't want to! Today there was a fair bit in the firebox, particularly on the lower section of the grate. There is of course the option just to 'rock the grate' from the cab and see what happens but, as the old saying goes..."the cleaner the grate the better". Having cleaned the grate entirely, I laid a full bed of coal and then added a pile of dry wood and parrafin rags. As soon as she was lit the big Western began to 'sing' again as she slowly began to bring up pressure for the days work.
Festive 38 At Shenton Before The Hat Blew Off On The Way Back!
My Driver for the day: Adrian: soon arrived and we prepped the loco together. On the train with the steam heat running by 9:45, we left on the first run fairly 'on time'. The format with the Santa's is pretty much the same year on year. We leave Shackerstone and make a very steady run to Market Bosworth where we stop and screw the loco down. Once Santa has seen everybody on the train we continue at a usual pace to Shenton where the locomotive runs round as normal. With the right away from the Guard at Shenton we make a bit of a dash for Shackerstone, non-stop, at line speed. Back at Shack the loco runs round again, taking water if necessary, before reconnecting to begin steam-heating again for the next trip.
3803 steamed well throughout the day, putting in some loud and impressive performances. The recently made Santa headboard looked well and was carried on the loco throughout the day.
3803 At Shenton Headshunt, Or Coming In From Nuneaton?
Passenger loadings on the train seemed to be about average for the 2nd weekend of Santa's, with two more left to go. It was much nicer to be back on the engine than serving the drinks on the train. That said, the Stewarding isn't a bad job...just not that good compared to firing the engine ;)
3803 Feathering & Ready For The Off With The 3:15 off Shenton
Well, after another good day on 3803 we put her to bed in the evening darkness, tucked up and simmering away in the shed. Thanks for reading folks. Sam. 

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