Saturday, 28 March 2015

"Isibutu": A Beautiful Bagnall at Statfold Barn...

Hi there everyone. Today was the much anticipated first Open Day of 2015 at the private Statfold Barn Railway. Myself and John were rostered aboard "Isibutu": a beautiful 4-4-0 Bagnall of 1945. I've been looking at "Isibutu" with wonder for a couple of years now, just hoping to get a go on it. At last, that day had finally arrived! I left home at just after 5am: good lord that's far too early: and proceeded to the SBR site near Tamworth. Naturally there was the obligatory McDonalds Breakfast stop before continuing on, arriving there at just before 6am. 'Eddie the Late' pulled in just behind me, much to his glee as this was the first time we'd arrived simultaneously without being late! Having changed and signed on, we walked through onto the shed frontage to find our loco's. There would be well over 15 engines in steam today, working an intensive timetable. Therefore lateness was not an option. "Isibutu" still had 70psi on the clock and the fire was still lit at the back end. Having added more coal to the back corner, I also began a small wood fire at the front end of the box, just for 'insurance'. All around, other engines were coming to life...
"Isibutu" has a large Marine boiler & firebox. The marine box gives a shallow grate with a large pizza-oven style door in the cab. The damper is also in the cab, as therefore is the ashpan. Here is a quick snapshot of the fire whilst adding more coal...
John arrived soon after me and duly surveyed the locomotive. He then disappeared and came back brandishing two full cups of piping hot tea...grand job!...
After tea, we set to oiling "Isibutu". These big Bagnall's were built by the Staffordshire firm for export to Africa. The 4-4-0 types have picked up the name "Tongaat Bagnalls", as they worked for Tongaat Sugar whilst abroard. Designed to be powerful, the 4-4-0s also had to work over a system of probably 90 miles or so at 2ft gauge. This accounts for their oversize proportions for 2ft gauge metals! Certain records indicate that Tongaat had 14 Bagnalls over a 40-year build period. This engine is No2820 of 1945 and was named "Egolomi" originally. No2374 of 1929 was actually built as "Isibutu", but she didn't survive into preservation. "Egolomi" received the name "Isibutu" when it was preserved and repatriated to the UK. She now lives on, carrying the name of her scrapped sister. We believe 6 of the engines survive, four of which live in the UK: "Isibutu", another at Lynton and a further pair at a private site in Middlesborough. The engine only has two coupled axles as well as a sizeable front bogie, but the length of her doesn't allow for tight corners to be taken easily. Therefore, we always 'take her steady'. Here, "Isi" steams up once oiling is complete...
At 8:30am we had the Safety Briefing before the engines were shunted into position for the first move of the day. Due to the SBR running a '4-Train Rotation' on the dual gauge railway this time, there were a few positioning moves required before the intensive service could begin. Therefore, the first train departed with 5 or 6 engines at its head, with "Howard" leading. The train continued to Oak Tree where "Marchlyn" is pictured tailing "Isibutu"...
At Oak Tree, "Howard" left the formation, as did we. "Howard" took up the rear of the freight, with the big Bagnall on the front. "Marchlyn" and "Sybil Mary" also then joined the rear of the freight. With the right away given, "Isibutu" got the weight moving and proceeded to the balloon loop with the freight...
At the balloon loop, "Isibutu" was uncoupled and the two 0-4-0s duly departed. "Howard" was now head of the freight train and awaited a path, whilst the Bagnall was now to be stabled until the freight train had completed a round trip. This system would see a new engine on the freight in each direction, and keep the brakevan on the right end. Having been laid up for an hour at the balloon loop, "Isibutu" returned on the next freight working, in fine voice. Here, John takes her carefully out of Oak Tree, bound for Statfold Junction...
"Isibutu at Oak Tree" (Pic by 40011 Mauretania - Flickr)
We were then stabled in the Goods Siding and enjoyed a cuppa' whilst John showed off his enjoyment of the day so far...
Here, the Krauss "Sragi No1" and the new in service Davenport steam past us with another freight working...
It was just now that we got the first and best bit of sun of the day. The large bulk of "Isibutu" is seen here being past by "Howard", formerly "Josephine"...
With "Howard" in the station with the ex-L & B coaches, the next departure (a freight) set off and "Isibutu" was then given the road. We backed out of the Goods Siding and then proceeded up into the main platform at Statfold Junction station. The L & B coaches would be our next load. With the right away given, 2820 steamed away easily. We are seen here descending the bank with the train, on route to the balloon loop. Note that there is no return crank as the valve position is actually driven from a rod off the crosshead...
"Descending The Bank" (Pic by 40011 Mauretania - Flickr)
Having proceeded around the balloon loop, we romped back up to Statfold Junction where we uncoupled and took up position on the turntable. The engine was then turned 2 or 3 times for the publics enjoyment, much to John's dismay! Having got the road again, we steamed through the station before reversing up onto the shed. It was then time for another cuppa' and a cheeseburger each: we eat well at Statfold! It wasn't long before we were called again, this time for the other passenger set. I was now driving and am seen here bringing "Isibutu" into Oak Tree with the set...
"Isibutu arrives at Oak Tree" (Pic by S.Donohoe - Flickr)
We steamed out of a very busy Oak Tree and down the bank before slowing for the balloon loop. Here the engine was held whilst we awaited the next service to arrive with our single line token. "Isibutu" waits patiently with the train...
Once "Isibutu" had got the road, away we went again. "Isibutu" pulled the train easily along the dual track: she is a very strong engine: and then made some real noise climbing the bank. At Oak Tree, we arrived cautiously through the point-work before stopping to take passengers and water. Here, John checks the level in the tanks...
"Nearly There"
Tanks full, we reboarded the engine ready for a bunker first departure for Statfold. Road given and a green flag too, off we went. "Isibutu" marched happily away and we steamed into Statfold Junction's main road with ease. Its a nice chuff up into the station now, particularly with the longer platforms. 2820 is in great voice and barks up the climb beautifully. Once stopped and secured after a good run, we were uncoupled ready to go on shed. Our next two movements would be shunt release jobs whilst preparing for the cavalcade. However, we still had to keep a good fire in "Isibutu" as propelling the stock up the grade into the station requires a fair bit of steam. After the shunting to clear the line, the engines began to leave shed for the cavalcade. "Isibutu" was last to go, and took up her place at the head of the line up before the big whistle-off. With the show over, we all returned to shed after a very pleasant day. "Isibutu" is a lovely thing and goes just as well as she steams. I think we were both very impressed with this beautiful Bagnall; another lovely old gal'. All the best guys: another great day at Statfold...

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