Thursday, 16 May 2013

Bala Lake 2013: Out with "Marian" Again...

Hello everyone. This morning the rain battered the windows of the accommodation, in fact it woke me up at one point, which didn't fill me totally with confidence for the day ahead. However, it turned into quite a varied day with the odd light shower mixed with warm sunshine. This is however not saying that it was "Alice" weather...it certainly wasn't! Today we were back on "Maid Marian" and we arrived at the shed at 8:30. For the last two days the crews (we were last on on Tuesday) have used the airline to bring the engine round inside the allotted time as the slow-to-start Welsh coal seems to have trouble with the usual amount of draft. However, today I was determined not to be beaten by it and so performed my duties as quickly and effectively as possible before lighting a good, strong wood fire. The wood was then 'blacked out' using larger lumps of coal, allowing good air flow and promoting high heat to get it going. Sure enough, this did the trick and "Maid Marian" came round nicely and made steam quickly. We performed all 4 of today's train journeys with the Maid steaming and running very well. Below, "Maid Marian" waits at Bala for the 1pm departure...
Steaming well, "Marian" barks out of Bala with the lamp clearly seen on the front of the loco. The large road bridge is, as you see, standard gauge scale...
In light rain, we steam along the side of Bala Lake on probably my favourite part of the line. The 2ft gauge track clings to the lakeside on the return run to base...
As soon as we left the lakeside, the clouds parted and the sun began to shine on "Maid Marian" as she chuffed into Llangower. The loco simmered in the platform with 100psi on the clock and 1/2 a glass of water ready for the ascent of the bank towards Flag. The engine looks lovely in red...
As we left Llangower the sun began to shine even harder and the clouds became smaller and smaller. After a strong ascent of the bank towards the base station, "Marian" cruised into the platform and anchored up. The loco was uncoupled but remained on the train so that I could take a photo. The Maid looked spot on...
After drawing off the train we approached the water tower as the sun continued to shine. The loco was then oiled, coaled and watered ready for the 2:25pm departure...
Eddie kindly allowed me to drive the 2:25 whilst he fired. I enjoyed the trip very much but, as I say, you really have to keep on top of it. The trick is to constantly juggle the regulator in order to keep an appropriate speed. The up & down lay of the line doesn't help either as "Marian" will often either slow or begin to run. The engine is however very responsive and will chuff along quite happily notched right back (3rd notch) and with the regulator just cracked. It was very nice driving another train to Bala and back: a new experience...
Driving "Maid Marian" (Photo - Eddie)
After the 2:25 we enjoyed another good run on the 4pm before disposing of the engine. It was then time for the job I hate...packing! We said our goodbyes and then hit the road, crossing the Knockin Pass and then taking the usual route home. Another brilliant time on the Bala Lake and I must thank Eddie and of course everyone at Bala for their hospitality. Loved it. Thanks guys, Sam...

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