Sunday, 29 September 2013

A Quiet Day on 3803...

Hi guys. Well, today was a pretty easy one on the Great Western 2-8-0 No3803 at Shackerstone. Though I was the rostered Fireman, trainee fireman Steve was on his firing exam and therefore I was simply to be there as 'insurance'. Despite me being relatively redundant, instances like this still require the booked Fireman to be there throughout the day; just in case. Therefore, I wasn't spared the 5:45am arrival time! This is how the railway gates look at 5:45am at this time of year...
Having opened the gates and met up with Steve before continuing down the spooky drive, it wasn't long before we were unloading the cars. I tell you what, every time we come we seem to bring even more stuff! Its a wonder there is anything left in the house! Boots, prep overalls, good overalls, food, torch, jackets, water-proofs...you name it. I feel like I move house each time! Anyway, chatting away, myself & Steve staggered up through the darkness of Platforms 1 & 2 before arriving at the engine shed. Inside, 3803 was blissfully simmering away to herself with no steam on the clock but 3/4 of a glass of water. The engine had not been used the day before and a warming fire had been lit. By the sounds of her bubbling away, she was probably on 'latent steam' at this point. Sure enough, as soon as Steve had got the fire lit the engine began singing away quite happily. We had a 'Footplate Experience' course to do this morning prior to the days trains, hence our early arrival. Whilst Steve got on with the fire I decided to crack on with the seemingly never-ending task of oiling up. This is one job that I do however find quite rewarding. Driver John arrived at about 7am and by then 3803 was well on her way. The 'Foot Ex' participant arrived and we were soon out on the line.

Foot Ex's include us doing a light engine run to Market Bosworth & back before doing a full-line run with the 4-coach passenger train. Following a successful Foot Ex it was time to make 3803's fire up prior to the first public train...
Below, Driver John Brittain (our Footplate Inspector) stands on 3803...
On the first run the 38' was already going well as she had had chance to 'warm up' on the Foot Ex. I sat happily in the Fireman's seat whilst Steve got on with the job with ease. Below, we're steaming out of Shackerstone and accelerating up to the line-speed of 25mph...
As the day continued the sun began to appear and it was actually very pleasant during the afternoon. 3803 performed very well and, naturally, the 4-coach train felt like she was pulling nothing at all...
3803 at Shenton In The Sun
Having returned to Shackerstone after the first public trip, 3803's spare shovel was put to good use as Steve prepared our late breakfast...
The next departure at 12:30pm saw John allowing me to take the regulator. As usual, 3803 was a joy to drive. Setting off in first notch you can ease the engine away before bringing it back to 3rd notch to accelerate the train once clear of the station approach. The engine can then be brought back with minimal regulator really and will chug along at 25mph very easily. I think the braking is probably what I enjoy the most on 3803: it seems to stop better than most engines (must be all those wheels)! Below, the 38' stands at the head of the 1:45pm train...
The following two trips saw John driving and Steve firing once again before I was allowed to fire the last run. As usual, 3803 was a joy to fire as well. The boiler steams very well indeed on a pretty much paper-thin fire; as long as you keep the holes filled. I managed to run her right down to a very minimal fire on the last trip and so disposing of the engine was greatly eased. The engine was put safely to bed and left to rest for the night after a successful day...
3803 In Bed
Steve thankfully passed his firing exam after a long day on the engine so well done to him. Myself & John had also had a good day but I think we were both glad to finish after 65 miles out with the engine! Cheers guys, Sam...

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