Sunday, 29 March 2015

Driving a Great Western 5101 at Shackerstone...

"Double Header Combination" (R.Mathieson)
Hi everyone. Today was another very pleasant day. Today I was driving 4141 at Shackerstone: the Great Western 5101 Class 2-6-2 Large Prairie tank. The day began like most: at dawn. I arrived at the shed to find 3803s Driver (Adrian) already there. This weekend was the Battlefield Line's Spring Steam-Up weekend, with both engines working a regular timetable. Our trainee: Jamie: soon arrived and began preparations on the footplate of 4141. I meanwhile stood alongside, sorting out the hydrostatic lubricator. In the morning, the water must be drained from the lubricator before it is refilled with fresh steam oil until full. Once full, I don't set the lubricator up until just before we are about to move. Jamie soon had a good fire burning inside the box of the 41', with smoke bellowing out everywhere. We are now trialling some different coal which seemed, at first glance, rather smoke inducing! Behind us, 3803 was also raising steam. The 38' was first off, with the 8:45am freight working. 4141 was rostered for her first turn with the 10am passenger. Soon enough, with 3803 having got the call to come off shed, 4141 steamed out into the rain and down through No11 road. We were then sent across to the signalbox, with the drain cocks hissing loudly in order to disperse any condensate from the steam circuit.

3803 was then signalled out and took up her place at the head of the freight, which left around 5 minutes down. 4141 then steamed back over into the shed to have the ashpan emptied. When 3803 returned, 4141 was sitting pretty at the head of the 10am train. We departed pretty much on time on this run, taking the 5101 steadily down to Shenton. She was still pretty 'cold', and the coal was proving a little hard to work. However, once we'd left Shenton, the loco started to perform much better and was now nice & hot. We pulled back into Shackerstone on time and 3803 duly departed with the 11:10 trip. 4141 stood quietly in Platform 1 as the wet weather continued...
With an hour or so to spare, we thought it wise to get cooking! Home grown chef Jamie put my shovel to good use cooking the sausage & bacon cobs: grand job...
The hearty cobs were joined by a hot cup of tea as we watched the drizzle fall. 4141 was simmering away happily, awaiting her next turn. Before long, the 2-8-0 returned and we were required again. We left on time with the 12:20 departure and the locomotive is pictured here awaiting departure from Shenton following run round...
Jamie & Dave were making up the fire ready for the return run at this point, and I managed to snap a shot of the chimney exhaust. This was very reminiscent of the time when myself & David were on 5521 back in 2012...
After a good run back and an on time arrival at Shackerstone, 3803 was off again, leaving us waiting in Platform 1 and supping tea. The loco meanwhile had nothing to do but simmer away quietly to herself...
These hour-long layovers do keep you relaxed, though it is unusual to have so much time to yourself! Nevertheless we were kept busy, and 4141 is seen at the head of the 2:40pm departure...
"4141 Prepares for Departure" (D.Hanks)
Down at Shenton after a good trip, David had his camera out again and snapped me aboard 4141. The rain had finally relented!...
4141 left Shenton in good weather and it was nice to be able to look out of the window without being pelted with rain. It was a very pleasant run back. The 41' handled the 5-coach train easily throughout the day, and will run along with the regulator half way up pilot valve at about 25% cut-off quite easily. Here, the locomotive chugs happily towards Hedley's crossing...
"5101 Class at Hedleys" (Pic by Barry Bryan)
Once back at Shackerstone, 3803 took up her place at the head of the 3:50pm train: the final train for her alone as the 5pm would be double-headed by both engines. The BR Black liveried 38' really does look lovely in her new colour and we're all really pleased with her...
During our final and sunny layover we enjoyed more tea before making up the fire for the last trip. This train was double-headed with the newly repainted 3803. 4141 was taken over first, and duly watered at the column. The 38' then dropped down on top, proudly wearing her "Cambrian Coast Express" headboard...
"Ready to Go" (R.Mathieson)
Double-heading is unusual on the railway and is always very pleasant to do. We left Shackerstone on time, with 'Eddie the Late' joining us on 4141 for a footplate ride. For the outward run, 3803 was leading. This meant that she did the braking, and we carried the token (as the last powered vehicle). As far as giving power was concerned, I would give steam whilst the 38' gave steam and shut-off as soon as they did. The 38' would then be called upon to do the braking and the ejecting where necessary. At Shenton, both engines were uncoupled and the 38' led us into the headshunt. 4141 was then used to create the brake for both vac braked locos before dragging the 38' through the loop. 3803 then regained control for the final drop onto the train. Before the trip back, we decided to have the necessary and self-absorbed crew picture!...
"Team Pic" (R.Mathieson)
The run back left Shenton a little behind time but not too much. The 41' was in good voice as she got the weight moving up the bank; now in control. We steamed easily up & over the bank into Bosworth, where I did the braking aboard the 41'. Leaving Bosworth there was much noise and whistling as we enjoyed a spirited departure. The 38' then shut-off on the fairly flat section, allowing 4141 to keep the momentum up on a breath of steam. Speed dropped as we came through Carlton due to the rising grade and so both engines gave a chuff up through Hedley's before shutting off for the crest of the hill. We then descended into Shackerstone carefully, after a very good trip. The two engines were then separated before returning to shed after a pleasant day. I must thank Jamie & David for their company, and for the turn on 4141. The Prairie has been a welcome addition to the steam fleet and it will be sad to see it go on Tuesday. All the best guys, Sam...

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