Sunday, 8 September 2013

3803 & The Red Arrows...

Hi everyone. Today involved another firing turn on the huge Great Western 2-8-0 No3803. It was Shackerstone Festival weekend and therefore the engine had been out on the annual 'Shack-Fest-Special' the night before. As she would still be fairly hot from the night before, having been out until around 9pm, I felt that I would come in a little later, arriving about 6:40am. Trainee Jamie had arrived just before me and we set to preparing the engine for the day. Jamie cleared the grate before I checked the firebox and lit the fire. The engine crackled away quietly to herself whilst we enjoyed a cuppa' with recently arrived Driver Eddie. It was then time to begin the cleaning regime, which is much easier with three people! Eddie had time to oil the locomotive up whilst myself & Jamie took to the bottom end with parrafin & oil mix. The wheels, rods, frames, sandboxes, footsteps, vacuum pipes and skirts were all cleaned and looked great afterwards. The smokebox was also cleaned and the brasses were also shined up. A chilly start was rewarded by warm sunshine as 3803 drew out of the dull engine shed at around 9:30am. Due to the Shackerstone Festival aerial displays which took place today, the steam train timetable was moved around a little, with our first train taking place at 10:30am. 3803 was ready and at the head of the 6-coach train in good time. Below, the fire is roaring away in the box as 3803 creates vacuum prior to departure with the 10:30...

As I usually like to, I fired today's first trip. The locomotive steamed very well indeed and it was nice to hear her working a little more with 6-coaches on, especially when climbing away from the 5mph slack at Shenton Lane on the return run. She is a very, very powerful engine and even 6 coaches seems little hindrance for her. Interestingly, an ex-Severn Valley Driver was admiring the 38' at Shenton and took pleasure in telling us that he had driven similar engine (No2857 of the 28xx Class 2-8-0) on a 14-coach train along the SVR and, in his words..."it didn't struggle, but it sounded fantastic!"...I can well believe that! Having returned to Shackerstone's Platform 1 for operational reasons, I photographed the engine ready to leave with the 11:45...I think you can see Ed larking about in the Drivers window...
The next run saw Jamie firing with me overseeing. The loco once again performed very well. Jamie is an experienced trainee and doesn't really need telling at all, which makes my job much easier! Our return to Shackerstone at 12:40pm heralded the arrival of a fairly long break in the timetable. Our next departure wasn't until 13:45 as we were awaiting a display from the famous RAF Red Arrows (part of Shack Fest). Therefore, 3803 was kept quiet and simmered happily outside the Ticket Office on Platform 1 on display. Meanwhile, we enjoyed a cuppa' whilst Eddie got the belated breakfast going!...
Bang on time, the Red Arrows roared into view and performed a fantastic 25-minute display over both the showground and of course the adjacent Shackerstone Station. The three of us sat atop probably the best viewpoint of them all...3803's tender(!)...eating tasty Bacon & Egg cobs over a cuppa' in the sun...this is the life...
Following the Red Arrows there was another display (slightly more sedate) from the majestic Spitfire, which was also very pleasant to see. 3803 was then moved over onto the stock for the 13:45 departure for Shenton, which I drove (much to my enjoyment). Eddie fired this trip whilst Jamie looked on. The 15:15 saw me firing again with Eddie driving, whilst I was again allowed to drive on the last trip with Jamie doing very well on the shovel. It was a fantastic day and I think we all enjoyed it very much...though it did seem longer as our first departure and our last departure were earlier & later respectively. Talking of earlier, I managed to catch this unusual shot of 3803 sat near the section signal at Shackerstone at about 10am. She is a BIG engine...
I must thank Eddie and Jamie for an enjoyable day, and Pockets for rostering us on yet again. I will next be on 3803 on September 29th and October 6th respectively. Next weekend?...Statfold calls!! Thanks guys, Sam...

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