Saturday, 23 March 2013

Welcome Back..."Sybil Mary"...

Hi guys. One word: Snow...enough to strike fear into the minds of any road user or footplate staff! I left home at 5:15am this morning but, due to a traffic accident on the M42, it took me over 2 hours to get to Statfold. By then, all 7 of the engines were raising steam in the cold snow that fell from the grey skies. Phil said that seeing as I'd cleaned out "Sybil Mary" yesterday, then I could join him & Caroline on the loco for the day. I gratefully accepted the invitation to help crew an engine that was making its preservation debut! After changing into my overalls I helped Caroline oil the engine up. The Quarry Hunslets are fairly easy to oil, with the main rods on the outside, and the axlebox oil-pots too. The inside Stephenson's valve gear is accessible by bending over under the saddletank, with your chest against the running board. At arms length you can reach the eccentrics, expansion links, die-blocks and valve spindles fairly easily...dropping a bit of steam oil on the glands as you go. As planned, steaming up alongside "Sybil Mary" were "Marchlyn", No19 (also making its debut), "Harrogate" and the Corpet, with the Fowler and the big Mallet steaming up at Oak Tree Halt...
Caroline had built a strong fire in "Sybil Mary"s firebox and the loco came round easily with the blower slightly cracked. When asked, I drove "Sybil" off shed with "Marchlyn" coupled up behind: the pair would double-head for the day due to their matching Penrhyn liveries. The pair were coupled up to a two coach train and, when ready, away we went. Phil & Caroline took the train to the baloon loop via Oak Tree Halt, with myself stood in the middle of the footplate against the back panel. As the first train, we steamed around the baloon loop and changed the points before continuing through the now trailing point, back onto the main line. The two Penrhyn loco's then took the train smartly back to Statfold before the Corpet was coupled to the rear of the train.
In order to promote safety in these blizzard conditions, the railway had decided to run two trains on the field railway, and one on the new 'Big Engine Railway' only. All three trains were top & tailed so as to remove the need for constant coupling/uncoupling. This system seemed much safer than having 17 engines out on a variety of moves in the arguably poor visibility levels. Depsite the terrible weather, some of the punters still turned up and seemed to enjoy themselves. We certainly enjoyed ourselves on "Sybil Mary". The "Port" class were slightly larger than the "Alice" class, and this was certainly evident when she was tearing along. "Sybil Mary" is about as close as we'll get to getting an idea of what "Winifred" will be like when shes done! After our first two trips, Phil allowed me to drive a run. In terms of driving, I cannot say that the "Port" is much different to the "Alice", though the former does seem to ride alot better and sits a little more stable on the rails with its longer wheelbase. A trip for us today involved being dragged down to the baloon loop by the Corpet, carrying the staff on the rear-most engine, before exhanging it at the terminus and heading back. Below, "Sybil Mary" is being pulled through the loop at Oak Tree Halt bound for the terminus...

Us Tailing The Corpet With "Marchlyn" & "Sybil Mary" (Photo - J.Shadbolt)
At the baloon loop there was a short interval so that the single line staff could be exchanged and so that passengers could take pictures of the loco's. With the right away from the Guard, away we would go again...
Port Quarry "Sybil Mary" (Photo - David Ward)
Out on the line, "Sybil Mary" would march along quite happily, with "Marchlyn" roaring away behind her. The 160psi boiler pressure was more than enough to keep the train moving at a good pace and the steep bank just before Oak Tree seemed nothing to the pair. It must be remembered that engines such as these were real work-horses and were challenged with rough track, poor weather and heavy loads of slate in their day. Below, "Sybil" and "Marchlyn" have both shut-off steam to slow for the sharp left-hand bend at the Statfold home signal (I am driving "Sybil Mary" in this shot)...
Me Driving "Sybil Mary" With "Marchlyn" (Photo - J.Shadbolt)
The sharp curve is shown in the image below, as are the larger wheels of "Marchlyn" compared to "Sybil Mary"...
"Sybil Mary" & "Marchlyn" (Photo - J.Shadbolt)
The "Big Engine Railway" that I mentioned earlier is the term used to describe the new line between the Statfold car park station and Oak Tree. The new line runs parallel with the old route but is steeper in places, and employs somewhat heavier coaching stock to the stuff we were pulling. The Mallet & the Fowler were working this line today, in their top & tailed formation. The fabulous parrallel running which occurred when both trains left Oak Tree at the same time was something to remember...
"The Great Statfold Train Race" (Photo - J.Shadbolt)
As the day wore on we continued to enjoy ourselves and "Sybil Mary" herself proved to be a good performer. Afterall, she is pretty much a brand new engine! The new boiler produced alot of steam when you needed it and the injectors were a dream. Its hard to believe that most of this engine is over 100 years old! What also surprises me about the Quarry Hunslets is their versatility. We must bare in mind that these 0-4-0s were designed to slog it out in the slate quarries of Wales and their designer probably never imagined that they would end up working passenger trains, let alone at more than a walking pace. Their versatility is of course testament to the Hunslet name, just as "Sybil Mary" is now yet another jewel in Statfold's ever shining crown. Below, we can be seen freezing in the station on the cabless Quarry...
"Freezing Cold" (Photo - D.Hone)
Never was a cup of tea more welcome!...
"Cuppa" (Photo - D.Hone)
We hauled our last passenger train at 3:30pm after performing many runs up & down the field railway, a few of which involved some exciting parallel running with the 'big train'. I once again got a go on the regulator and "Sybil Mary" performed very well, romping along with no need for encouragement whatsoever. When notched right back with the regulator just open, the crisp bark is barely audible, showing the haulage capability that she must have.
"Last Train Home - Sybil & Marchlyn" (Photo - D.Hone)
Following the last train we shunted the stock away before retiring the engines to the shed. Despite the snow the day was a complete success and I must sincerely thank Phil & Caroline for allowing me to share their day with them: I really enjoyed it. As always, its nice being in the company of good people on the footplate of an engine. Before I finish this post I thought I'd better include the video's below which are, in a word, special, and show the day perfectly.
 
"Sybil Mary" herself had done Statfold proud and apart from one bush running slightly warm was completely trouble free throughout the day. I must also thank Statfold, and Mr Graham Lee, for allowing me to be part of another Open Day on this magnificent railway: thank you. It really is a stunning place. Cheers guys. Sam.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fab. I did see you this day but too shy to say hi!