Friday, 11 April 2014

A Beautiful Day with Beautiful "Bluebell"...

"A Beautiful Shot" (by R.Eborall)
Hi everyone. Well, this was it, the eagerly anticipated first day of the Battlefield Line's 2014 Steam Gala. The engines were ready, the stage was set and all we now needed was some sunshine, and we got it! The gala line up for the Friday included the two visiting tank engines (323 and 5542) plus resident Aveling "Blue Circle". I was booked aboard No323 as Fireman with John as the Driver. I arrived at the shed at 5:45am, along with Carl. The first task was to check "Bluebell" over and then light the fire. The engine was already quite hot but was still not showing any steam. As soon as the fire was lit No323 began 'singing' away to herself and all systems were go. Behind, 5542 was also coming to life. With the engines lit, it was time for a cuppa' whilst perusing today's working timetable...
After the cuppa' we set to work with the engine. John duly arrived and began oiling up whilst I cleaned the brasswork and attended to the fire. The engine was already fairly clean and so a light buff up would see her looking very smart for the rest of the day. The owners rep from the prestigious Bluebell Railway (Ian) soon arrived and began telling us about the eccentricities of the engine. 323 was built in 1910 at Ashford Works for the South Eastern & Chatham Railway. A tall 0-6-0 tank engine, it was argued that the 'P' Class was an update to the LBSC Terrier tanks. However, Bluebell driver Ian was quite firm when he told us that Bluebell Terriers (or 'Router's as they call them) are far more powerful than the 'P' in actual fact. Only 8 'P' class engines were built, with four surviving today: three at Bluebell and one on the K & ESR. The steeply graded Bluebell Railway does seem to pose a challenge for little engines like "Bluebell", who are limited to 2-coaches down there. Today she would be hauling three coaches and a box van so it would be interesting to see how we got on! The little engine was soon in steam and chugged over onto Platform 2 road to shunt the ECS. The 10:30am train left a few minutes down with "Bluebell" in good voice already. The loco steamed well down to Market Bosworth where we are captured arriving...
"323 Arrives at Market Bosworth" (D.Hanks)
The little blue locomotive carries a 160psi boiler and is vac braked throughout: much like 3803 in that regard. At 160psi you have more than enough steam to do the job and, down to around 130psi she'll still keep going easily. However, as with most little engines, keeping her on the boil at the 'red line' seemed to be the best possible plan. At Market Bosworth on the 10:30 there was the usual 1-minute or so stop before we set off for Shenton...
"Bluebell" chugged happily out of Market Bosworth with her SE & CR beat echoing around the Goods Shed and the yard. Her 12" diameter cylinders certainly seemed to be working hard with 3-coaches on, though she definitely wasn't straining. Before long we were at a sunny & tranquil Shenton Station where Dave was kindly helping with the run-round procedure to shave off a few minutes here & there...
"A SE & CR Engine in Midland Territory" (D.Hanks)
A happy crew aboard No323: Mr Brittain was certainly enjoying himself and, no, before anyone asks, his smile has not been photo-shopped!...
"The Happy Crew" (D.Hanks)
Now came the challenge. How would 323 fair on the longer climb from Shenton up through Far Coton. The answer?: it was easy! I need not have worried as 323 barked up the bank beautifully and without trouble. The boiler made steam like it was going out of fashion on a light, bright fire with a slightly deeper back end. As long as you kept the corners up and the sides well-fed, the little blue engine could not fail to make steam. The injectors picked up very well, though they were quite slow so you had to think ahead with them. Mind you, 323 steamed so well that you could leave them on for long periods without damaging your steam pressure. We were having a great time already: it is a grand old engine. The locomotive steamed easily back to Shackerstone where we had a layover whilst 5542 took a trip out with the other set. 323 was watered before hauling the 12:30 train, seen here arriving back at Market Bosworth after another cracking run up the bank from Shenton...
"Arriving at Bosworth on 323" (D.Hanks)
There was another layover at Shackerstone whilst we waited for 5542 with a cuppa' in the sunshine. We also enjoyed one of the traditional Shackerstone Steam Gala Full English Breakfasts...a must on a gala weekend! 323 is seen here waiting to depart with the 2:30pm after coaling & watering...
Still running easily, 323 got away from Market Bosworth with photographer David again out with the camera...
"Bluebell at Bosworth" (D.Hanks)
The final trip was double-headed with the Prairie Tank No5542 on the 5-coach set. The run down saw "Bluebell" in her element and she blew-off most of the way despite working quite hard. The unusual pairing of regions and liveries is seen here at Shenton ready to depart with the final homeward train of the day, the 4:25pm...
"The Unusual Double-Header"
The run back was great fun and "Bluebell"s little wheels were certainly flying around compared to the larger ones under 5542 who was ticking along nicely behind us. The pair steamed easily into Shackerstone and were then disposed of on the shed frontage. It had been an absolutely cracking day and I must thank John & Ian for their company. John I think had particularly enjoyed himself. "Bluebell" is a lovely little engine and I am so glad that we got the opportunity to take her out for the day. To see Rick Eborall's cracking railway website click here. I must thank Rick & David for sending in pictures from the day. Meanwhile, to see a brilliant video of todays events on Youtube, click here. Best Regards, Sam...


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Glad you enjoyed your time on 323. Re. the whole P vs Terrier debate, remember that pre-grouping rivalries live on today! Ian is a Brighton "Terrier" fan and has told you a partial truth - they are more powerful it outright terms, but it's harder to get the best out of them, and the cab ergonomics are shocking. P tanks are much more consistent performers and well laid out. There's a reason the other name for Terriers is "Rooters" [a rooter is a truffle hound, i.e. a pig!].

SE&CR engines are unique for the attention given to their design proportions. You can calculate the maximum load for a P tank any way you like (grate area, heating area, cylinder capacity, adhesion, brake force etc. etc.) and the answer will always be the same - they are perfectly proportioned. Wainwright signed the paperwork but I think his assistant Surtees was the real hero. The only issue is that because they're so balanced they're only ever as strong as their weakest link - if anything is wrong you can't compensate elsewhere, because nothing is over-specified :-)

Sam Brandist said...

Hi there mate. Thanks very much for the comment. As you say a very interesting debate. The 'P' surprised every crew on the railway I think with its power and performance for its size. The boiler steams unbelievably well and I think it was a surprise for many as to how hot the fire burnt in it due to the draft. With 3 coaches on it barked like a thing possessed but it did, and easily. Its fair to say it had to be held back and despite the fact that we generally operate a 38xx 2-8-0 all of the lads were glad of their time on a challenging little engine. I completely agree with the fact you have to be on the ball, 323 will bite if given the chance, but overall a punchy little engine. Great stuff.