Saturday, 30 March 2013

The Greyhound With A Bite...

Hello everyone. Well, a much anticipated day out on the footplate of LSWR T9 4-4-0 No30120 turned out to be quite a varied and unusual one. This Greyhound can have one hell of a bite. I arrived at 6am and upon opening the shed door I noticed a tiny wisp of steam coming from one of the injector overflows on the T9...proving that she was indeed very warm after coming around slowly overnight. There was nothing on the clock yet but experience tells you that an engine this warm will start boiling straight away. I'm sure an extra shovelful or so last night before we left would have had her needle off the clock this morning. Anyway, after changing into my overalls I clambered blurry-eyed up onto the footplate and checked the gauge glasses: 1/2 a glass of water. The warming fire was almost out with only the odd glowing ember littering the fire grate inside the dry firebox. A check around with the torch revealed that everything was ship shape in there and so I began clearing the grate with a bent dart.

Eddie had broken up a lot of wood the day before and so I could immediately light the engine. I was told to start this fire with no coal on the grate, just a good mound of wood. The coal can then be added once the wood rages away. The plan is then to black out the wood with coal, until the coal ignites, and then slowly push and roll the bed down to the front over time, using the fire irons. The T9 reps had stated that, if you started with a coal bed, the loco would be a bugger to light. Below, the T9 has been lit and is simmering nicely in the shed at about 7am whilst we have a cuppa'...
The T9 has a fairly tight cab, despite the size of the overall locomotive. The regulator is a push-across type, which starts in the 7 o'clock position and heads across to about 4 o'clock at full open. The reverser is a steam reverser type, with the weighshaft connected to a cylinder who's piston lifts and lowers the di-blocks on the Stephenson valve gear. She is a slide valve engine which, for her size, I found quite surprising, but then again at 114 years old I suppose it isn't that much of a surprise really! Good job the reverser is steam operated that's all I can say, as the force of those big slide valves on the huge cylinders would probably throw the driver over the cab when trying to adjust them on the run! (For example, I found Beattie No30585 quite heavy on the reverser pole). Eddie & Andy oiled the engine around whilst I kept my eye on the fire. The loco's pressure gauge needle slowly began to rise and she sat simmering away completely silently. The T9 is vacuum braked throughout, just like 3803. The cylinders are lubricated by a hydrostatic lubricator, with the axle-boxes fed from boxes around the locomotive rather than mechanical lubricators. One odd thing...just like the Beattie...the steam valves on the injectors go the opposite way to all other locomotives. So they turn clockwise to open, which believe me, does throw you off sometimes!! Below, the fire is burning well on 30120 as she comes around in the shed...
The unusual ratchet firebox on the T9...
Once the T9 was in steam we steamed down to the coal pile, pushing Beattie No30585. We coaled the locomotive with the big welsh coal, using the JCB...
Simmering T9...
For the first run, myself & Eddie were joined on the footplate by John (Footplate Inspector) & Andy (tomorrow's driver). Though it was cumbersome with four on the cab, myself & Eddie had no idea how the T9 would perform and as it was renowned as a bit of a brute, we thought it best to have experienced hands with us as John had driven the locomotive during the gala. Andy was on for the ride in order to oversee, once again, how John did it in order to let his confidence for tomorrow's run grow. We departed Shackerstone around 30 minutes late with the first run, due to operational difficulties (nothing to do with us or 30120). I fired the loco in my usual fashion with a flat fire and slightly more in the back corners. In my mind, 5 coaches and steam heat would be very little challenge for the elderly tender engine. As I thought, she wandered away happily with her big 6ft 7" wheels gripping seemingly well on the damp rails. We pulled out of Shack under chilly, overcast skies and 30120 steamed on towards Market Bosworth. All the time, the pressure was dropping. I fired heavier & heavier to little avail, with low steam pressure but safe water levels. At MB there was very little respite and the departure southbound proved a little un-nerving. The pressure needle was still having trouble as we approached Shenton, though the fire was now raging away in the box.
 
I could not understand it. Every locomotive that we have had on the line, apart from the smallest 0-4-0s, have required very little fire as they have a tendency to clinker heavily and steam poorly with huge great fires inside. This is caused by a lack of draft for a huge fire with only a 5 coach train to pull. Shackerstone is, afterall, no main line! As I uncoupled at Shenton my mind was alive with solutions to the problem. Then, I heard the shovel moving in the cab, loading up the firebox. John was creating what he described as "a Western wedge in a Southern firebox". Though smokey, the ever igniting 'wedge' soon brought the T9 around and we left Shenton with all looking well. The return run was a little more fortunate as the T9 warmed through and the wedge got the firebox up to a stronger temperature. At Shackerstone I deepened the wedge again, allowing us to depart with strong steam & water levels. This run was much better and, by the third run, I was finally beginning to enjoy myself (the cap has never sweated so much!). Below, Dave Hanks captures us leaving Shackerstone with the slightly belated 1:45pm departure, with the T9 proving a lot better to handle when you have the fire right!...
As the elderly 4-4-0 passes Dave, we can see that I still have my boilersuit on, which I use for prep. I simply could not get changed until half way through this run: there was no time or chance! What a stressful day it had been so far! The locomotive ambles past Dave below...
The third run was most enjoyable, as was the fourth. Indeed, on the fourth run, I'd got it cracked and the T9 was quite happy to wander through the Leicestershire countryside with the safety valves lightly feathering and 3/4 of a glass in the gauge glasses. The fire could pretty much look after itself, with me checking for holes at the front end and firing them lightly where necessary, whilst also maintaining the shape of the wedge but also allowing it to reduce in mass slightly each trip. Now that she was hot there was no stopping her. The final trip was a light engine move (for operational reasons) and the T9 is captured at Shenton in the late afternoon sunshine...I love this picture...
Sun Kissed T9
Upon our arrival back at Shackerstone shed the locomotive was disposed of as per normal practise. It had been an eye-opening day and indeed, I've never had to fire so much coal into an engine of this size in a trip before. Mind you, as I've written, as soon as she got properly hot she steamed very freely. The floor based injector water valves were a bit fiddly though! Overall, a very nice locomotive which looks lovely at 114 years old. Its very strange coming off something like 3803 or "Sir Gomer" and going on something like the T9 or Beattie. Its a whole different world. Another entry for "Sammys World"! Cheers. Sam.

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