Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Year Steam...

"A Capture of 3803 at Shenton" (M.Heseltine)
Good evening everyone and a Happy New Year to you all. That's it, 2014 is long gone and 2015 has begun. For now we have the glum months: some rain, some frost and definitely not a lot of steam! But never fear, steam will return when the season begins in March. For now we must content ourselves with the maintenance work that inevitably comes with steam locomotives: the scraping, the cleaning, the painting: but not before we had one last day in steam today. New Years Day is a traditionally steam hauled day on most railways and the Battlefield Line is no exception. Today I was rostered to drive GWR 3803: the 1939-built 2884 Class 2-8-0. I arrived at Shackerstone following the usual McDonalds stop at around 6:30am. Dear me McDonalds looked like the A & E waiting room, with many examples of sleep deprived party goers slumped in the eco chairs trying to force down a greasy hash brown. Having traversed the killer paths of darkness on the route to the loco shed, I fell into the shed carrying my hoards of kit. Fireman Jason was already there and had checked the 38' over before continuing the still burning warming fire. 3803 was sitting pretty with 3/4 of a glass of water and 40psi on the clock. My my steam has joined me early in 2015...
With 3803 already making steam, we had a chat and a cuppa' (always welcome) before Jason started cleaning and I started oiling. I've rambled on in previous posts about the amount of oiling points on a healthy Great Western 2-8-0 so I won't bore you with that again, but needless to say it took the usual hour to oil her round. Meanwhile Jason was cleaning the boiler barrel and shining up the smokebox. With the locomotive oiled we had another cuppa' before taking her outside. The usual checks were carried out before 3803 backed cautiously out of the loco shed...
"3803 Outside Shack Loco" (O.Hodgkinson)
Our first departure from Shackerstone on todays 4-train roster was the 11am, followed by three more outings at 90-minute intervals. With a clean, oiled and feathering locomotive we left shed at 10:15am and steamed towards the cross-over clearing the condensate from the cylinders and steam circuit...
"Steam Scene" (O.Hodgkinson)
Soon enough 3803 was at the head of the 11am train. The two first class compartment coaches, hired in for Christmas from their home on the GCR, have been very popular over the Santa season and would be once again today. They do look smart on top of the rake behind the 2-8-0...
"3803 & Train" (O.Hodgkinson)
With the loco secure and heating the stock, Jason kindly took the baton of chef for our first cooking relay. His weapon of choice: bacon...
Having eaten our bacon & egg cobs we made a brake, did the brake test and departed pretty much on time. The first trip was most enjoyable and 3803 performed well. Its amazing how fast the day goes once you get out of the shed and get started. It wasn't long before we were back at Shackerstone...
3803 is seen here heading up the 12:30 departure from Shackerstone...
Jason drove the 12:30 trip whilst I did the firing. Even on this chilly day I found myself firing without my coat or driving jacket as it was just too warm! Jason uses a very nice BR Eastern Lucas shovel and this felt very nice when flinging the coal. The Lucas types don't carry as much coal but do cut through the air easier and I find them very pleasant to use. There you go, you didn't know there was such a thing as shovel science did you?! After the enjoyable 12:30 we were out again at 2pm. 3803 is seen here arriving at Market Bosworth on time at 2:12pm...
"3803 at Market Bosworth" (O.Hodgkinson)
As the day wore on our lamps were lit and my BR (W) gauge frame lamp was pressed into action. I bought this lamp off a chap at work a year or two ago and its very rare that it gets an outing so it was nice to have it lit up and doing its job today...
After our third trip we enjoyed about our 4th round of mince pies: they're trying to get rid of them now: before Jason began making up the fire for the final trip...
The 3:30pm departure was undertaken in dim light and we arrived back at Shackerstone in almost darkness. It was most enjoyable and 3803 performed very well once again. I'd had a very pleasant day with Jason and it was nice to be doing the first trains of 2015 on the railway. Many visitors commented on our apparent youth, as we are the youngest Battlefield Line crew with a combined age of 45! Mind you, we have been doing it for years ourselves! With todays first trains however came the current last. The railway will now be closed until March time. Over winter there are many on-going projects including the usual suspects of P-Way and hedge cutting as well as many shed tasks. We always miss the footplate during these few months off but we've all done quite a lot of turns lately so it may be a little break. Life is different on the footplate: we see the changing seasons, we see the sun rise and the sun set, we see the engines through thick and thin, operational and broken. We do all of this for our steam engines that unfortunately, though we hate to admit it, we love so much. They are the closest things to living machines that man ever created and it has always been my pleasure to work with them. All the best guys, until next time, Sam...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very poetic Sam! Can't argue with you though. Happy New Year! Emma-claire.