Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Driving at Evesham: Something Different...

Hi everyone. Today I was out again: this time on my way to the Evesham Vale Light Railway up at Evesham Country Park. The story behind this was that, a few months ago, I noticed on the EVLR website that the railway was asking for more volunteer locomotive drivers. 'Eddie the Late' had already applied, and was about to undertake a days familiarisation. I've always been interested in Evesham and indeed it has been reported on many times throughout this blog, but I'd never really considered trying it out until now. It may not be full size, but it has several brilliant plus points: its friendly, its picturesque, it runs all year and it has three different loco's in traffic at once. These reasons are noted but are not the only ones! Anyway, after 'Eddie the Late' reported that he had enjoyed his day out at Evesham quite a lot, I decided to try it for myself and the railways owner, Adrian, duly contacted me to arrange a date. Due to other commitments, the date arranged moved right up to today but, as I drove down through the morning fog along the A46, I was looking forward to a day of 15" gauge steam.

I arrived at the country park for around 8:20am before changing into my overalls. Adrian and his wife Sandra (operators of the EVLR) were already there and beginning to open up. I'd met them both a few weeks before during our visit with Ed & John. Adrian welcomed me before taking me around onto the shed frontage. Opening the door on the left-hand shed, there stood "St Egwin": loco for the day. "Egwin" has also been featured on here a few times and I've travelled on the footplate on a few occasions as a passenger. With a good shove, the 0-4-0 rolled out into the morning mist. Adrian then took me through the light-up procedure. Everything has its place here; its all very organised. With the fire lit, an air line is attached to the chimney and the fire gently drawn as it catches...
With coffee at hand, we went through the preparation of the loco together, including stoking, oiling and, perhaps most importantly with an immaculate engine like this, cleaning. "Egwin": around 11 years my junior: is an Exmoor product and has all the mod-cons including roller bearings and air brakes. The oiling takes a matter of minutes, with most points being done with a grease-gun. I nearly fell on the floor when Adrian replied to my question about oiling the axleboxes by saying, "they get greased every 6 months"! This modern engine is also apparently completely maintenance free a lot of the time. The bottom end has done many miles over 12 years and is still good, whilst the boiler has been checked and had some tubes but nothing more: its tight as a drum! At 10:15am, with 15 minutes before the first of 13 departures from Twyford Station, "Egwin" left shed. The next job was to blow-down the boiler via a tap on the drivers-side, by about 1/3 of a glass, clearing any scale that may form at the foundation ring. The 0-4-0 then casually backed onto the 3-coach train.

With a right away from the Guard at 10:30am, away we went. "Egwin" politely laughed at the 3-coach weight, steaming easily along the track. The EVLR is 1.25 miles long but has some stiff gradients to contend with. The track goes up, down, up, down. Therefore, water should not be kept too low nor too high. For the first two trips (taken every half hour) I was water monitor, and generally watching Adrian's moves as he drove the 0-4-0. At Evesham Vale station, there was the usual break on each trip for the public to admire the cab and controls...
For the 11:30am trip, I was on the regulator. Its a ball-valve type which is silky in operation, with a screw reverser controlling the slide valves. "Egwin" gets away easily but the braking is fairly alien to us 'vacuum men'. Adrian did comment that I was "driving it like a standard gauge engine". What he meant was that you give bursts to vacuum to find a position and feel the brake, but with air there's no real time gap so the brakes come on and off in that time, thus jerking the thing. After a couple of trips though I was beginning to get the hang of it. As the day wore on the sun came out and it was very warm on "Egwin"s footplate. We hauled one or two 4-coach trains, with the last coach being taken on & off as required by the loadings. "Egwin" is seen here awaiting an afternoon turn...
All in all, its just very pleasant. There is no rush, no stress, no heavy lifting. The engine steams well, pulls well, stops well and the passengers are calm & friendly. The timetable of 13 trains is quite tiring by the end of the day but it does provide good intensity for the visiting public and less waiting time too. After a brilliant day driving & firing the green Exmoor, we returned her to the shed for stabling and disposal. The fire was killed, the boiler filled, the ashpan & smokebox emptied and the loco then cleaned all over again. Finally, with the last breaths of steam, "Egwin" put herself back in her shed for the night. I'd had a lovely day and was very grateful to Adrian & Sandra for making me so welcome at their railway. I am planning to return on May 9th for another go at it :) All the best guys, Sam...

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Sam, thanks to your previous writing about the EVLR, I decided to pay a visit, and in fact I've been there twice in the last month!
I had a "business lunch" on the train with my boss! And the other time I took my family. It's a lovely little line! I mentioned you, and they said that you were going to be doing some driving. So I was expecting a blog entry soon!

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, forgot to say, it's Emma-claire!

Sam Brandist said...

Hi Emma. Yes the EVLR is lovely and a very friendly place. Let alone visiting, get involved and do some driving ;) Thanks for your kind comments Emma, see you soon :)