Sunday, 19 October 2014

Driving Test at Statfold...

Hello everyone. Another early start today: the last of a long and tiring weekend of steam. Todays destination was the delightful Statfold Barn Railway. The purpose of the day was the long awaited (and dreaded!) 'Practical Test' Day. Every member of SBR staff has recently had to complete full rulebook examinations and written competency tests, as per practise. This has allowed us to become theoretically competent in what we do, allowing us to carry out our duties safely & effectively. The final part of the stringent examination procedure was today. It wasn't just engine crew either; the Guard's and station staff were also being examined, and rightly so. My day began at around 6am with departure from home. After the all important stop off at McDonalds for breakfast, I made my way to Statfold. The weather wasn't looking promising on the forecast but, at this point, it was still dry at least. I arrived at Statfold to find the humorous name pairing of Phil & Will lighting up the loco's. Three would be in service today: Peckett 0-6-0 "Harrogate" and Brazil-type 0-4-2's "Trangkil No4" and "Howard" (formerly "Josephine"). Myself and fellow helper Chris were then put to work oiling up the Peckett, followed by "Trangkil". Meanwhile, the trio were slowly coming around as daylight broke...
It was very pleasant to be on the shed frontage in the quiet for a change, without the hustle & bustle of Open Day anorak traffic. What was very interesting was the trio of Brazil's. The 14.5 ton Brazil class 0-4-2 was a popular design and three examples adorned the shed front today. It was a standardised narrow gauge design, derived from Kerr Stuarts of Stoke on Trent. The design did differ in numbers, mainly through gauge but, though all three of the trio are basically the same engine, the differences are noticeable. "Trangkil", built by Hunslet in 1971 as the last steam locomotive built for export, shows the final phase of the Brazil...
Now, with "Howard" and "Trangkil" you may think: "that's only two?". Well, yes, correct, but the SBR currently has a special visitor. "Excelsior" is another Brazil and lives on the Great Whipsnade Railway at the famous Whipsnade Zoo. I was so pleased to see her as I've not yet visited the GWR. "Excelsior" was visiting the SBR for some contract work to be carried out and was still hot after steaming yesterday to take part in the SBR 'Friends Day'. I believe she will be soon returning to Whipsnade. The 1908-built Kerr Stuart variant is beautifully kept and, to me, is a handsome old engine. She is 2ft 6" gauge...
I believe "Trangkil" was built to 750mm and re-gauged to 2ft by the SBR after repatriation from Java, whilst "Josephine", built in 1936 by Hunslet, was re-gauged from 3ft to 2ft in preservation. The differences between the three, beside the gauges, are also their valve gears. "Trangkil" & "Howard" both have marine rods, whilst the former has Hackworth valve gear and the latter has inside Stephenson's. To be honest, to me, "Howard" is the superior as Hackworth can change its valve position via the bang of a drop-joint. Mind you, it is simple in operation, easily maintained and easier to oil up...
The elder Brazil: the beautiful "Excelsior": employs inside Stephenson's as well, but she has standard rods with split brasses and keys, similar to a Quarry Hunslet arrangement. These rods are, to me, a lot more in keeping with the look of the locomotive. Another addition to the elder sister is the acquisition of running boards as the Brazil design doesn't incorporate any, making watering up and cleaning the tank difficult. A good idea I say...
Anyway, that's enough comparing Brazil's! Other crew members soon arrived such as the well known 'Eddie the Late'. 'Eddie the Late', as you may have read through these posts, caused controversy in Wales earlier this year by forcing several local residents to take part in hideous 'Three Course Challenges'. No matter how hard they tried, the victims of 'Eddie the Late's vicious attacks on the human eating capacity (such as myself) could not finish the huge platters of food laid down before them, much to 'Eddie the Late's anger. Today, in an act of 'Three Course Challenge' failing anguish, Ed decided to upset every supporter of a greener England by making the biggest coal fire known to man... 
Thanks to Eddie the Late, "Howard" was ready for action 4 hours early! Nah, OK, I can't lie anymore, fair play! The three examination engines were ready for action just after 10am, and things got underway. The practical test all of the Drivers (including myself, Ed and John) took would be the same: a normal trip down to the balloon loop with the train, a run up New Road to Oak Tree up the bank, run round, and return. The locomotive would have to leave shed and return to shed under examination, meaning that the safe coupling up methods had to be exercised at all times, line speeds observed and the engine cared for as per usual. It is fair to say I was pretty nervous; not about the driving the loco, just about the exam! Myself and Ed were both rostered to drive "Howard", whilst John drove "Harrogate" the Peckett. I was the first out on "Howard" and away we went. After a test during which I think I did fairly well: I was fairly pleased anyway, I tried my best: "Howard" is pictured in the new station area awaiting shunt release...
Driving Test Passed, with 0-4-2 "Howard"
Having returned "Howard" safely to shed and secured her/him(?), the practical exam was over. Now it was the turn of 'Eddie the Late' who, before getting used to the air brakes, broke the sound barrier on the way to Oak Tree. Only joking folks...you know me! All us pre-examined people had to do now was wait. Once all the practical exams were over, we would each spend time with one of the examiners going through the answers to both our rules and traction exams. "Excelsior" meanwhile basked in the sun...
Later in the day, with most practical's complete, myself & John were asked to take "Howard" on an ECS positioning move: no problem! The loco is pictured here in poor sunlight at Oak Tree...
A final look at the lovingly restored "Howard" as we await the arrival of "Trangkil"...
Back at Statfold I swapped with Chris so as to go off and do my exam paper reviews. Eddie was first, followed by myself. 'Eddie the Late' then had to rush off and collect both of our locos (his 2P and my C1) from the Midlands show over at Leamington as time was nearing 4pm! I just couldn't get away in time and ended up collecting 'Maisie' from Ed's. I am grateful to Ed for fetching her for me as I just couldn't get there in time. The C1 is later pictured at home with mate, "Achilles"...
All in all it had been a fantastic day at the SBR. And, would you believe it, I passed my driving test! So I am now the next grade: a Passed Fireman. So I am now passed to fire and drive if required. This is basically a posh term for a Driver but the actual Driver role, as I've mentioned before, comes after a certain amount of turns driving as a Passed Fireman...or it always used to! Its been great fun and I'm so grateful to the SBR owners & staff for giving us the chance to do this. Its a great place and its lovely to be associated with it. I must also thank 'Eddie the Late' for the title image, for picking up 'Maisie' and for being such a good sport on this blog! Haha! Cheers all. Best Regards, Sam...

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

After this wicked character assassination I'd like to point out in my defence that "Eddie The Late" was there before most of the other drivers, including Crusher Brittain! Eddie The Fairly Early.

Petensue said...

Well done Sam - passed fireman.
Hope to see your Atlantic in steam at the weekend.
Regards
Peter