With all well, I raked out what was left of the warming fire and then put the usual bed of coal down, 1-lump thick. We are now on Welsh coal, rather than the Russian stuff we have used for the last year or two. The new coal is larger and has even more slack, though it smokes alot less. With the bed down, a good pallet's worth of wood was thrown in as well as a couple of lit parrafin-soaked rags. The inferno was soon under way and 3803 began singing.
Having been lit early, the engine was making steam very well. With no blower on and only the dampers open the loco had reached full pressure by just gone 8:30am, showing the importance of a good warming fire. There she sat, feathering at the valves outside the shed with a quiet fire and a well filled boiler. By 9:15am we were over on the train and steam heating, cooking the breakfast on the shovel in the meantime...Yum!
Today the railway was again running its 'Santa Special' trains, with departures from Shackerstone at 10am, Midday, 2pm and 4pm. The trains were relatively well filled, with the two middle trains being the busiest. Due to the increase in bookings on certain trains, a 7th coach had been added to the set, making the train 'just' short enough to fit our current infrastructure. For example, at Shenton the train could only just fit in the loop in order to leave room for the loco to run round. As far as the extra 30 tons or so of weight was concerned, 3803 took it all in her stride and pulled the trains admirably. The braking was certainly easier with the extra coach, though something was definately dragging somewhere, perhaps a brake cylinder not releasing properly.
|3803 Outside The Shed|
The weather today was just awful; the worst we've had on a footplate turn in a while. However, with the weather sheet protecting the back of the cab and with our overalls and winter jumpers on we got through OK. The main problem was the rain getting the back of your jacket because you never seem to be able to dry out on a footplate...believe it or not.
|A Roaring Fire & Tea On The Tray|
During the day we were kept well watered by both the rain and the staff on the Buffet Car 'Jessie', with tea arriving on the footplate at regular intervals...just what you want on a day like today ;) . I fired the first two round trips before getting a chance to drive on the 3rd one: the 2pm. The old girl moves away gracefully and is quite responsive on her heavy regulator. Despite the poor weather conditions she was remarkably sure footed and moved away easily with the 7 coaches on each start off. It has honestly been a pleasure to have the chance to fire and especially, to drive this locomotive during her stay. I never thought I'd get the chance to drive anything quite this BIG(!), let alone on a regular basis ;)
We did have a minor problem during the day...one of the drain cocks kept getting stuck open. It turned out that the plunger was simply getting stuck inside the main body, and a quick wiggle with the spanner soon cured the problem.
|The Culprit Drain Cock|
After a successful day including a spirited, spark ejecting last run we retired 3803 to the shed for one last time. Finally we had a rather vain and self obsessed crew photograph with the loco to signify our potential last day...All in all guys, a very successful day indeed and very enjoyable. Thanks to Eddie and everyone at Shackerstone for another good time. The Britannia wannabe with her huge substitute whistle had performed well and we had kept pretty much to time...all good stuff. Well, thanks for reading guys...Merry Christmas. Sam.