Sunday, 27 July 2014

Firing and Driving on 3803...

Hi everyone. Today was a sunny day, and a return to the Great Western 2-8-0 No3803. The big old heavy goods engine is still at Shackerstone where it is put to good use hauling all of the lines steam workings. The day began at 6am, driving over to Shackerstone in the BMW through the Fen Lanes. It always makes a difference when its a sunny morning: the sky is blue, the air is crisp and the journey so much more pleasant. It's the winter mornings in the pitch darkness that you don't want! I arrived at 6:30am, along with trainee fireman Jamie, and we were soon in the engine shed checking the 38' over. The engine was still red hot from yesterdays antics, with 40psi remaining on the clock. Having checked the engine over and finding almost a full glass of water and dry joints, we ashed the loco out. With this task done I decided that it would be a good idea, particularly on a nice day like today, to drag the engine outside. Thus, the trusty Class 02 was given a good taste of the 'cold start' button and she soon roared into life. With air pressure made up on the 0-4-0 diesel hydraulic, the little shunter was brought into the shed and buffered up to 3803. With exhausts clagging, the shunter dragged the bulk of 3803 outside. As is always the case, a gentle brake application is necessary as the gradient and the weight of the 38' can sometimes far outweigh the stopping capability of a light footed 0-4-0! With the engine's stopped and secured outside, 3803s grate was cleaned and a new wood fire lit by myself. The wood was then blacked out with coal (as is my method) and the engine left to simmer away to herself whilst we cleaned her, and Eddie (recently arrived after his usual Driver's lie-in!) oiled up. By 10:30am, we were sat calmly in the platform with 160psi on the clock and the breakfast on...
"Come On Eddie, COOK!"
Gourmet Chef Eddie had the sausage, bacon and eggs going lovely whilst we awaited the return of the Class 33 diesel. The 33' had gone down the line on the first passenger at 10am, as we were running a split 8-train timetable today for the Rail Ale Festival, half steam and half diesel. The smell of the breakfast was intoxicating...
"Mmm"
The breakfast break also allowed for a few snaps to be taken of the cleaned up 3803. Here she is standing in Platform 1 in a somewhat unusual shot as the stock is normally stood there blocking this view!...
Our first train was at 11am, easily hauled by 3803. Jamie fired with Eddie (naturally) on the handle. The run was certainly a success and it wasn't long before we were all sat in a row on the Platform 1 bench at Shackerstone. The midday was of course diesel hauled by the 33' and we returned to work on the 1pm. I drove this one with Eddie riding on the firemans seat and Jamie on the shovel. It was another good run and 3803 was certainly in fine form. This engine is a constant free steamer, strong puller and slick accelerator: she's quite a tool, its just a shame we haven't got about 50 miles of line and about 15 coaches behind the tender! I had a go on the shovel on the 3pm with Eddie on the handle and Jamie riding. Fireman or no fireman, you should always fire at least one trip with a trainee or not. The fireman must always keep 'his hand in' otherwise one may risk slipping back! For the 5pm (a late train for us really) I was on the handle again with Eddie firing there and Jamie firing back. Eddie prepares the 'Shap Ascent Fire' here at Shackerstone...
See what we have to put up with on the footplate? Look at my crew! Mind you, by the looks of their faces I think they are probably in the middle of mocking me for telling some kind of ridiculously annoying (or sad!) joke or something. A good day in good company...
Here I've managed to snap 3803 at the head of the 5pm just prior to departure...
"GWR 2884 Class Heavy Freight 2-8-0 No3803, Built Swindon 1939"
The 5pm trip went just as well as the other four but I think by the time we arrived back we were all starting to feel it a bit! Today seemed a much longer day than normal even though we had had more rest than normal...most odd! Anyway, another cracking day on the 38' and long may they continue. Cheers, Sam...

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