Saturday, 6 June 2015

Statfold Barn: Driving the Peckett...

"Harrogate" (M.Ranieri)
Hi everyone. Sometimes you have one of those days on the footplate where you think to yourself: "it really doesn't come much better than this" - this was one of those days! I have just had an absolutely brilliant day driving the wonderful Peckett "Harrogate" at Statfold Barn and what a day it was. So, without further ado, we'll begin. Having warmed the Peckett gently into steam yesterday afternoon, she would still be hot this morning. I arrived at the gates of the SBR at just before 6am and was immediately joined by many other crew members, including JB for one! Having been let in, we parked & unloaded our vehicles before proceeding to the signing on book. Signed in and ready to go, I met with my Fireman for the day: Mark. Mark was attending all the way from the Talyllyn Railway! Mark then went off to begin lighting preparations on "Harrogate" whilst I collected the oiling tools. The steam oil drum was in its usual lethargic state on this cool but sunny morning and so a short wait was inevitable. With full oil bottles eventually in hand, I wandered down to the high level railway where Mark was lighting the fire...
With a bag full of very dry wood spread across her fire grate, the Peckett started singing immediately as the sun climbed higher in the sky...
Mark was soon well underway with the fire and began cleaning whilst I started the oiling round. The Peckett follows the standard arrangement in terms of oiling, with the internal motion looking pretty much the same as our "Sir Gomer". Interestingly the Peckett has a flangeless centre axle, allowing tighter curves & point-work to be navigated with less protest. The axleboxes, cylinders and slide-bars are oiled by a very well thought out Wakefield lubricator which stands proudly on the running board. Having filled it with steam oil, the Wakefield was primed by turning the wheel a good few times. With oil evident at the slide bars, the turning could cease. The oiling was completed in around 20 minutes...
                                     


I don't always enjoy oiling up but this morning was different. Oiling up with only the sound of the crackling fire and the morning birdsong whilst the warm sun shines down is a lot more pleasant than oiling up in a shed while its raining condensation indoors (no names mentioned!). The Peckett was now coming around nicely and the pressure needle was rising around the clock. The engines had to be ready by 8:30, though others were stirring well before 8:00. At the rear of our 2-coach train, the beautiful Bagnall "Isibutu" was also getting ready. Two old rivals (Peckett & Bagnall) would join forces to operate one of the two 'high level railway' services in action today, whilst another 12 or so locomotives operated on the field railway and "Paddy" steamed around the garden. Put them all together and you've got yourself a great show, though we wouldn't expect anything less from the ever impressive SBR! After 8:00, myself & Mark went to get our breakfast before returning for the Safety Briefing on the lawn at bang on 8:30.
 
After the briefing, it was back to the simmering Peckett before "Isibutu" got us underway on the ECS set-up run. The Bagnall would take us to near the balloon loop at which point "Harrogate" would take over for the run to Oak Tree loop. Once there, the train staff would be split and the two service trains could commence safe operation. At Oak Tree loop after a good first slog up the steep bank, I am pictured on "Harrogate"...
"Me on the Peckett" (J.Cogan)
The Peckett now had a good fire in the box and, having been passed by the top & tailed "Fiji" and "Trangkil", we set off with the ECS for Statfold High Level. The dozen or so engines on the field railway were also now in action, providing an impressive display of power and variety. The high level line, from a drivers point of view, is a lot steeper again than the field railway. Indeed, the chug up into the high level station at Statfold is nothing short of chimney shaking! The engine had to go up there in full gear and 3/4 of the regulator - nothing less. A slight slip was quickly caught and the 0-6-0 marched into the platform proudly. I must admit, I was shaking a little but we'd done it and it could only get better with a few more goes. The engine was more than up to the job but the run was very, very steep. After a good run, "Isibutu" got us underway...
"Harrogate Hangs On The Back" (M.Ranieri)
The day went on just like that. We pulled a trip, "Isibutu" pulled a trip. We would steam down the line, pass the other pair, around the balloon loop, pass the other pair again and then back to the top platform. It was one trip on, one trip off. The Peckett was steaming well and Mark had her singing to him. What a lovely engine to drive too. Here, a Shackerstone pass at speed: "Harrogate" (driven by me) passes 'Eddie the Late' (driving GP39) in the other direction on the field railway. This is the section between Statfold Jnc and Oak Tree...
"Passing Trains" (M.Ranieri)
With a dozen engines running on the field railway and two trains on the high level line, the balloon loop was a very busy place. The team down there were none stop all day and my hat off to them for their efforts. The Peckett is spotted here in the loop awaiting a path...
The engine then returned to Oak Tree to pass "Fiji"...
"A Pass by Fiji" (M.Ranieri)
The Peckett was making some great assaults of the car park bank into the top station and sounded beautiful. The field railway was a wash with trains and the intensity was just fab. I cannot complement the event more: it was just grand. The 1200+ guests certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves! One guest amongst them was Geoff Cryer, who has a great rail diary which you can see by clicking here. Geoff kindly sent in some of this posts images...
"Me Driving Harrogate" (G.Cryer)
The bottom straight is a good place to get a run up to the bank...
"Harrogate Pilots The Train" (G.Cryer)
Unfortunately we did encounter one problem: we ran a hot box on one of the coaches. The coach was duly removed and we ran a one-coach set but we did keep going and lost no time. For this move we did not go around the balloon loop but used it as a shunting tool. The Peckett was then dragged back, passing the Mallet (driven by JB) on route...
"Mallet and Peckett" (G.Cryer)
A popular feature of the event was "The Goose" replica: a railbus of some kind. It is seen here on the field line returning to Oak Tree as "Harrogate" descends the bank...
"Smoke & Steam" (G.Cryer)
Another of todays roving photographers was Malcolm Ranieri who has kindly also sent in some images. Malcolm is involved with the NGR at Toddington and reports for Old Glory magazine. He has been responsible for getting the MTEW report published in there the last few years: thanks Malcolm!...
"Peckett Portrait" (M.Ranieri)
The bank between the balloon loop and Oak Tree loop is shown in the image below. Luckily the Peckett has a traditional Peckett steam brake which is fab in operation...
"Descending The Hill" (M.Ranieri)
We were due to be relieved at 1300 hours and go onto the Corpet as Station Pilot but when the Corpet got called into service and did a good few miles, the plans changed. Phil asked if we would remain on the busy high level line with the Peckett for the rest of the day: suffice to say I don't think there could have been less resistance to this situation. The rest of the day was as great as the start; we had some brilliant runs, some great chugs and some very happy passengers. At around 4:15pm we began preparations for the end of the day cavalcade. The Peckett was removed from the train and chugged into the turntable area...
The Peckett watches "Jack Lane" take a turn...
Having had a short ride on the turntable, we were dropped at the shed road and steamed through the running shed and into the shed yard. 1944-built "Harrogate" is spotted here with shed-mates "Jack Lane", "Sybil Mary" and "Marchlyn" amongst others...
After the shot above, we steamed down to the cavalcade site in warm late afternoon sunshine. The engines stood in a line and did their usual whistle up & pose. Then, just like always, it was over. The engines blew their whistles one last time and returned to the shed for disposal and stabling. It had been an absolutely brilliant day. To see a great Youtube video of the action, click here. The SBR can always be highly recommended and if you haven't been, you need to go! The place is just so impressive and to drive there is a pleasure indeed. I must thank Mark for a great day on the footplate and the entire SBR team for allowing us to be part of such a great calendar of events. Thanks for reading all, Sam...

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