Friday, 28 December 2012

Mince Pie Specials With A Proper Peckett..."Sir Gomer"...

Hi there guys. After many days on the footplate over the years, sometimes things can get a little mundane, other times the days are more enjoyable than one can describe. The day on the Black Five for example was a particular highlight of my firing career, and I enjoyed it very much. However, today, for some reason, was absolutely brilliant and was just a normal day to boot. With 3803 having performed well on all of the Shackerstone Santa duties, it had been decided that we would use the railways own locomotive: the Peckett "Sir Gomer": on three of our five 'Mince Pie Special' days. Having learnt that "SG" would be on service I made it my mission to get a go on her as outings at Shackerstone for the old Peckett are few and far between. Myself & Eddie were rostered for today: the first of "Gomer"s three turns. I arrived at Shackerstone at 7am this morning: one of the luxuries of having an engine with a small boiler. Having carried out all of the usual checks I lit the fire and the 0-6-0 began singing right away. It was then time for a cuppa' whilst I waited for Eddie to appear through the gloomy morning rain. Eddie kindly brought me a Thomas-the-Tank card and a little Victoria sponge, in celebration of yesterdays birthday - Cheers Ed!
We prepared the engine together before taking her outside and dropping down onto the 11:15 departure. There was then time to cook breakfast on the shovel whilst we steam heated the train. We left Shackerstone on time and could not believe how well "Sir Gomer" steamed and pulled. The ex-Mountain Ash Peckett romped along with the 4-coach train and we made Shenton in good time. The old engine really likes the Welsh coal we currently use.
After a spirited run back to Shackerstone, with "Sir Gomer" again showing what she can do, we uncoupled before doing some shunting. There were 3 coaches standing idle in Platform 1, having been taken off the rake the day before. As we couldn't run round without moving them we had to shunt the coaches up the DMU siding. This stock included the Grotto coach, now in store for another year.
Job done, "Sir Gomer" ran across the cross-over to the signalbox before being given the road to drop back into Platform 2 to water up before coupling to the train again. "Sir Gomer" hadn't used alot of water considering we had rushed along and used the steam heat all the way. However, due to the size of the saddletank we did not pass the column without taking water. We worked out that you would probably get two trips out of it...just...but any hold ups may have spelled disaster.
"Sir Gomer" at Shackerstone's Water Column
"Sir Gomer" has a relatively simple cab. There are two injectors, a pole reverser with 3 notches in each direction, two gauge glasses, front & rear sanding, drain taps and a high-pitched (but lovely) original Peckett whistle. Preservation fitments have included vacuum braking and steam heat equipment. Thats one thing that always amazes me about industrial locomotives: they were never designed to haul passengers and the fact that they can still romp along holding good pressure with both vacuum and steam heat equipment on full chat is just brilliant. I doubt Mr Peckett ever imagined a then ten-a-penny engine like "Sir Gomer" performing mile after mile of passenger hauling 80 years after she was built in Bristol.
"Sir Gomer" pulled the 12:30 admirably, with the steam heat holding 20psi all the way. I fired her so as to keep the fire thick but flat, with an extra 3 shovel-fulls at the back: one in each corner and one under the door. The loco blows off at 160psi and trotted along happily with between 140psi and 155psi (feathering) on the clock. Each time Eddie shut off the pressure needle would tear back around towards 160psi, blowing off against the injector now and again. The injectors on the engine were not designed to put in a large amount of water at once and, often, you can end up injecting for half a mile or so to make any real difference to the water level. Nevertheless for an industrial she plodded along well, keeping 20mph or so and making good time. The shrill Peckett whistle echoed around the countryside each time it was sounded and is brilliant for having a play with on the run.
"Sir Gomer" at Home - Shackerstone - Enjoying Her Retirement
After another good run to Shenton we ran round and recoupled before the journey back. "Sir Gomer" was in good voice and, as she often has, chuffed better in reverse.
Myself & Eddie were having a good day, and were joined by Dave J on the first two runs. Dave J later swapped with Dave H, who joined us for the latter two journeys with "Sir Gomer".
"SG" At Bosworth Battlefield
Having returned on the 13:05 from Shenton we ran round again and watered up. As I said "Sir Gomer" pretty much needs water every trip; a far cry from 3803 which could do four trips if you fired it right. On the 13:45 departure I was driving with Eddie firing. With 21 inches of vac on the gauge, 160psi on the clock and a green flag from the Guard...away we went. Setting off in full forward gear with a few revolutions of steam through the drain cocks, you can shut the taps and let her get the weight underway. "Sir Gomer" pulls away easily and will rush out of Shack loudly and strongly if you want her too. She is currently experiencing a very stiff regulator which, from a driving perspective, can be a bit of a pain. As you pull it open, it reaches about 1/3 open before you hit what feels like a blockage in the linkage. You need to wrench it pretty hard to pass that lip, before the valve opens and "Sir G" tears away like a bull at a red rag. You then have to tap her down on the regulator until you find what is an appropriate point. Being a slide valve engine, you have to shut-off to change gear position as she has the power to throw the lever where she wants when under steam. Once you are up to speed she waddles along quite nicely and steams well. When you come to shut off she requries the lever in the full-position for coasting, either forward or reverse, as per a slide valve engine.

The driving positions aren't too bad and visibility is OK. The one thing that is very different as opposed to 3803 is the braking. "Sir Gomer" needed to come down to about 10 inches of vac to provide any kind of useful braking when approaching stations, particuarly with only 4 coaches. However, 3803 would have probably stopped dead if brought down to 10 inches!
Having driven that round trip, I was firing again for the last one. "Sir Gomer" again performed beautifully and we even managed to give my old form tutor a run round on the footplate at Shenton: small world.
All in all a brilliant day on the footplate of "Sir Gomer". I don't know why so many people are opposed to these industrial engines. Yes they are a little ignorant of passenger comfort but they are strong, free-steaming and, in "Sir Gomer"s case, large in the cab. "SG"s cab in particular can easily hold 4 persons with plenty of space still to work in. If you bare in mind that "Sir Gomer" is now 80 years old and is actually an engine built for shunting heavy coal wagons a few hundred yards around a colliery, I don't think she's doing too bad to be hauling and keeping passengers warm in 2012.
And we cannot miss the traditional "Eddie larking about" shot...
Cheers guys. A brilliant day on a brilliant engine. I wonder how long it will be until "Sir Gomer" is out again... :D

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