Sunday, 13 April 2014

Can't Beat This Prairie...

Hi guys. Firstly, let me thank Driver Adrian for a brilliant day. Secondly, let me thank 5542 Ltd for sending their brilliant machine to us. And, last but not least, thank you to Mr Paul Biggs for sending in the brilliant title image. We are seen there passing Hedley's at 25mph this afternoon. OK, I think it was fair to say that myself & Adrian had been looking forward to today since the return, if brief, visit of GWR Small Prairie No5542 was announced. Built in 1928, 5542 would be on her third visit to the railway over the last few years. She was a good engine then, she's brilliant now! Since her last visit the engine has had a full 10-year overhaul at the South Devon Railway and has come back better than new. Her boiler makes steam like its going out of fashion, there isn't a knock, a bang or a clank on the bottom-end whatsoever and the nifty hydraulic ashpan and damper system make preparation a breeze. I cannot fault her, at all: which is a strong statement when it comes to steam engines! We arrived at the shed at 5:30am in order to get 5542 ready for our 8:30am off-shed time. The engine sat sizzling at the front of the shed with just a tiny bit of steam left on the clock. The grate was cleaned and then tipped using the hydraulic system, and then she was ashed out using the spray-bar washer and hopper doors: easy! It was then time to set to with the Brasso and make the already immaculate engine look prettier. Before long, we had left shed, prepped the freight and we were off with the 9am demo-freight...
"5542 Draws The Freight Over The Crossing" (D.Hanks)
5542 passes the shed area with the freight. The newly-restored SR brakevan is directly behind the engine as I look back on the train as it passes over the crossing...
"5542 Gets The Freight Away" (D.Hanks)
Having left Shackerstone with the freight, a still 'cool' 5542 steamed OK as we headed down the line. We ran round at Shenton before backing onto the freight for the return assault. The engine had a bright, thin fire in the box with an extra four or five shovelful's around the back end, as Western's tend to like it. I did notice that the engine tended to eat the coal away around the back corners and just forward of them against the side-sheets. Fireman David had also mentioned this to me when he had her the day before. With this fire, 5542 roared out of Shenton and, as the top of Shenton bank approached, she blew off. We then ran on the flap with the injector on through Market Bosworth non-stop, where the fire was briefly checked as we ran through the platform. Once back at line-speed near Airport bridge, I added four or five more shovelful's to the back end which got 5542 back home with 170psi on the clock and a fairly full boiler. This was done to stop her blowing off during our long-layover (we wouldn't be out again until Midday!). The engine is spotted here at the Signalbox having marshalled the freight in the sidings after a great first run...
The second run today for 5542 was the Midday passenger. The locomotive hauled the 5-coach train easily along the line and we had another brilliant run back trying to make up a little bit of time. The engine's pressure needle stuck firmly to the red line and the injectors were a dream. A perfect one-two-three-four beat left the chimney at even intervals and the whole loco just whirred along: cannot fault it - not one bit. After the midday run the loco spent most of the afternoon stabled on the old pit road in the South Yard. In the meantime 3803 and "Bluebell" were working trains whilst "BC" operated around the station. During this rest period, I cleaned 5542's fire which was getting a little clinkered and also spent some time in the bunker, pick-axing through the slack. I think there was some Welsh in the bottom of the bunker, hence the large amounts of slack (our Russian coal seems to be smaller but has less slack in it). 5542 was primed and ready for our final run at 4pm, with the passenger. Carrying Adrian's 'Cambrian Coast Express' headboard, we enjoyed a brilliant run and it was a pleasure to be aboard 5542. She steamed wonderfully, injectors were great, no knocks, no bangs, perfect beats - you name it. Its not very often that you can say that you had a faultless day on a faultless engine, but this was one of those days! It was just fantastic. And, believe me when I say that the crews on other engines were even offering bribes to get another day on 5542! She's just perfect now...perfect. I must thank Adrian once again for a cracking day and 5542 Ltd for sending their brilliant tool of an engine. Click here for a Youtube video taken during the day by a visitor. Thanks very much guys - Sam...

2 comments:

Izzy Nelson said...

Hi Sam

Great Blog!! Really superb photos of many many beautiful engines. As regards the MTEW I haven't stopped talking about it! Dates for next year are already in my calendar. We'll be there for sure!

Have loads of fun with all your exploits in steam mate.

If you're ever down London way, drop me a line and come and look round my depot, they may not be steam powered but most of my fleet of loco's and wagons date from the 50s and 60s.

All the best

Izzy

Sam Brandist said...

Thank you for your words Izzy. I will look forward to seeing you with the engine at Market Bosworth again next year!