Sunday, 3 August 2014

A Shackerstone Invasion on "Maid Marian"...

Hi everyone. Today we arose at around 7:30am for another day on the Bala Lake Railway. The sun was shining again but the wind was up. I was feeling a little worse for wear this morning after another of Eddie's "3-Course Challenge's" last night, down at the Eagles. I knew the third course was a mistake but Eddie kept on and on. "Phew", it was certainly fair to say that I felt completely beached this morning as we watched BBC Breakfast. Anyway, we managed to get down to the shed a few minutes early today, with the fact in mind that "Maid Marian" would be lit from cold. Eddie dragged the red 0-4-0 out of the shed using the diesel engine, "Trigger". I then set about my tasks whilst he shunted the stock. Tasks include checking and cleaning out the smokebox, checking and cleaning the firebox, ashing out and lighting up. With 1/3 of a glass of water in sight the engine was duly lit and black smoke soon poured from her tall, stove-pipe style chimney. There was more smoke rising back into the cab today than normal, but no doubt because the engine was cold and not drafting as well as a result. An engine that had been used the day before and is still warm will draft a lot better when starting the fire. Having got a good, strong wood fire going I blacked it out with the chunky Welsh coal before leaving "Marian" to it. I always find that this coal is best left with a strong, hot base beneath it and then she'll get her own fire going. If you persist in poking it in fear of it going out...it tends to so its better off left. Eddie is captured here washing "Marian", who was filthy when we pulled her out!...
We had today a bit of a Midland's railway celebrity in our midst. David, our friend from Shackerstone, was joining us for the day to see 'how the other half live' in Wales. We arrived at about 9:30am just as "Marian" was beginning to think about boiling...
At 10am, having showed David around the shed, we went up to the café for tea, having left "Marian" with a bright Welsh coal fire in the box. The needle had just come off the stop as we left. When we returned around 25 minutes later, the engine had 30psi on. At this point the blower was lightly cracked to give the engine a little more draft to get a little more steam on. I don't mind occasionally using the steam blower when we've steamed an engine from cold but I don't like using the 'air line' to bring them up. With 70psi on the clock at 10:50am, and a healthy fire, Eddie took "Marian" off shed with drain cocks open...
Having coaled and watered "Marian", the shining red engine was placed at the head of the 11:15am train. We steamed down to Bala with ease, but the return run didn't half bang. We thought that "Marian"s draw-spring must have been worn as she was banging the coaches about. Despite the noise, she was steaming beautifully and running easily. David joined us on the footplate for this run to 'see how we do it', though I think he was surprised at the comparison with standard gauge on a line of the same length! On the next trip I stepped off and David did the firing under instruction from Eddie with the 12:50 train. The train is captured here on the long climb up the bank nearing Llanuwchllyn, with "Marian" in good voice...
It was like musical chairs today! David took a break on the 2:25 for lunch whilst I resumed my place on the footplate, this time on the regulator. David has sent in the image below of us accelerating out of Llanuwchllyn with the 5-coach train, bound for Bala...
"Me Driving Maid Marian" (D.Hanks)
"Marian" did drive differently to "Holy War". Though they are essentially the same design, "Marian" has very slightly smaller cylinder bores which, at the same steam pressure as her sister, is noticeable on the footplate. The loco hauled the train easily to Bala where she is pictured in the trademark position, in front of the sign...
"The Trademark Shot"
Having ran round swiftly we departed into the breezy sunshine and were soon at Llangower with a fairly well loaded train. The "Maid", as she is known, is pictured here waiting to depart Llangower with the blue waters of Bala Lake in the background...
After a good romp up the bank with the "Maid" we watered, oiled and coaled for a final time at the base. The 4pm train departed on time with Dave firing and Eddie on the handle...
"David Enjoying His Excursion to 2ft Gauge"
At Bala, Eddie took over the firing whilst I took over the driving as Dave was in for a photographing run. Eddie is spotted here 'cleaning' the fire during the run round at Bala. Notice how the well-placed sliding doors on the back of the Quarry Hunslet come into play!...
With "Marian" ran round onto the front of the 4:35pm departure homeward, Dave took a pic of the pair of fools in charge of the engine...
"The Fools At The Helm" (D.Hanks)
Leaving Bala in a cloud of steam, the engine worked well to Llangower where Dave caught another good image of Eddie, contemplating another 3-course Challenge for later in the evening perchance...
"I Wonder Which 3-Courses It Is Tonight?" (D.Hanks)
From Llangower the "Maid" worked well back to the base where the stock was shunted & stored before "Marian" was disposed of. She had steamed and run beautifully but the banging in the homeward direction caused by a weak draw-spring and tight buffer springs was getting pretty unbearable. However, I'm sure that the crack team on the BLR Engineering division will sort the problem out in no time! We must thank the railway for another brilliant day on the footplate and thank David for taking the time to join us and sending in some of the images you see above. All the best everyone, Sam...

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