Sunday, 17 May 2015

Sunday Sweet Pea at Ryton Pools...

Hi guys. This afternoon I was booked to attend CMES for one of my Public Running turns. The usual traction for these Sunday outings is the pairing of the Class 31 and Class 37 electrics but, to me, they don't have anywhere near the same appeal as steam. With this in mind I had emailed our Member in Charge (Eric) during the week to ask permission to make one of the train rakes steamed hauled. Eric duly accepted and I arrived at just before noon today in order to prep 0-4-0 Sweet Pea "Diane"; one of the societies engines. I did some of my first driving on "Diane" well over 10 years ago, when her late owner & builder Dan was in control. The engine is a particularly well made Sweet Pea and is normally free steaming. With the loco checked and filled with water, I lit a wood fire and turned on the electric blower. The Pea was then oiled up whilst she crackled away to herself. Coal was then added in turn until a thick, bright fire was built...
Due to the shallow grate of the Sweet Pea design, I've always found that a thicker fire, particularly when hauling a good load, is best. That way, if the blast pipe does rag the fire through then there is less chance of cold air coming through the gaps and knocking back your pressure. By 12:40pm both the Class 31 electric and "Diane" were stood at Ryton Halt with their individual trains awaiting passengers...
I set out with the valves lifting (80psi) on our first run, though the engine was sluggish to start. Normally the first trip with any engine is a 'cold one'. However, most unlike her usual self, "Diane" was very unresponsive and unforgiving for the remainder of her run. We weren't in trouble or anything, she was just proving hard work which always suggests something is amiss as this engine is normally hard to keep quiet! Despite shifting some good heavy loads and barking well on a good fire, the boiler was still not keeping pressure. Returning with 50psi is unheard of with "Diane"! After just over 90 minutes of running and with the queue growing each time, I decided enough was enough and "Diane" was replaced by the Class 37. Here she is just before we left the track...
With the Pea now back on the steaming bay and the two electrics attacking the queue, I decided to hunt for the problem. Sure enough, when I opened the smokebox door the impairment was plain to see. The spark arrestor mesh was clogged solid, so much so that everything between the top of the blast pipe and the bottom of the petticoat was thick with hardened oil. There was no way that the engine would be able to draw herself through with a blockage like that. Oh well, never mind, at least its not a serious mechanical issue! We later decided that she did well to pull anywhere near the loads she was pulling with so much of the mesh blocked: well done old gal'. The engine is seen here during disposal...
Following disposal of the Pea it was back to track duties for me, with just over an hour left to go until the 4pm closing time. The 37 and the 31 were working well and the queue had finally relented. I did a few trips guarding and one or two driving but, I tell you what, I can't find any enthusiasm for the electric contingent. I suppose we're all different but to me driving the electric is being unfaithful to your steam engine! Thanks once again for reading folks. I'm back at CMES again on Wednesday with the Atlantic - fingers crossed for the weather. Best Regards, Sam...

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