Saturday, 25 July 2015

Driving 3803 For Rail Ale...

"3803 Gets Away from Shackerstone" (ColinT - Flickr)
Hello everyone. Today I was driving 3803 again on behalf of the Battlefield Line. Having enjoyed a pleasant visit to the thriving Rail Ale event at Market Bosworth last night, an early start was required this morning for a 6am arrival at Shackerstone. Pulling into the car park at around 5:50, I was soon joined by Fireman Steve and Trainee James. The blurry eyed trio then ambled to the loco shed, signing in on route. When we reached the loco shed there sat 3803, simmering away with 20psi still on the clock from yesterdays antics. Steve & James duly got to work with cleaning the grate and emptying the ashpan. The morning weather was fairly pleasant and a fair day was in prospect. My first job would be to locate and fire up the Class 02 Shunter; D2867 "Diane". I found the little 0-4-0 up on the DMU road...
Now, having been dragged from your bed at an ungodly hour as it is, the last thing you really need is to set up the cold start for a throaty Rolls-Royce engine like this! BIS on and cold start in, I pressed the go-go button and sure enough the 02 roared into life, throwing the usual first burst of blue smoke up into the sky...
The 02 would then be left to make air in her secured position. With no control air you can't do anything other than free-roll everywhere! I then decided to change into my prep overalls in readiness for the usual oiling up procedure. Returning to the 02, the appropriate level of air had been reached and the loco shuddered down the DMU road and forth to No11. The No11 road allows access to the shed and, with fire already lit, 3803 was duly dragged out into the morning haze. Loco secured and crackling away, it was time for tea!...
Trainee James was then tasked with the traditional cleaners role of, well, cleaning! Steve meanwhile tended to the fire and polished off the rods. In the background I was meandering around the 100+ oiling points on 3803 with the faithful oil pump (R2D2 to his friends) trailing along behind me. When Churchward initially designed the forerunner of the 38xx class: the 2800: he did the usual Great Western thing: he made a good, strong engine with no ease of maintenance. In fairness, the 38' isn't too bad but there are certainly no oiling aids or an abundance of well located steps! I do like oiling up outside on these pleasant mornings though. There's something about being one with the engine, as poetic as that sounds. Whilst you're tending to her various needs, the loco is constantly warming herself through, expanding in places and building steam as required. Steve had her singing to him today, she came round without the blower.

Today's timetable was a 6-train variant of the green timetable (an additional 10am train had been added). Due to the fair weather expected, the trains were sure to be busy on this enjoyable event weekend. The hours passed quickly and 3803 is seen below about to leave Shenton with the 11:50 for Shack; her second return trip of the day...
By this time we were all ready for our breakfast and it was kindly delivered to the footplate!...
The Shenton cafĂ© breakfast baps are very tasty and I'll always try to order one if we're on the footplate! Having had a good run back, 3803 drifts into Shackerstone with the returning 11:15 departure. Her express headlamp code is clearly seen...
"3803 Arrives at Shackerstone" (ColinT - Flickr)
The engine then duly ran round ready for a prompt 12:30 departure. The paint job applied by the team at Shack last winter is pretty immaculate when clean...
"3803 Shines at Shackerstone" (ColinT - Flickr)
The big engine was running fairly well though she is now showing her age as parts start to wear out. It must be remembered that she's been in traffic for well over 9 years now of her 10 year ticket and has done some hard work and many, many miles. Ahh well, she still chugs on happily in her retirement year! Having enjoyed another successful run with the 12:30 trip, the 13:45 train would see us requiring water. In this quick shot below, James demonstrates exactly what happens when the water column bag kicks out of the tank and fills the top well. Its fair to say James was soaked, much to Steve's delight!...
Steve drove the 15:00 train whilst I fired. As the driver I still like to have a go at firing because you must keep your hand in! The train loadings throughout the day had been very strong and you could tell that the public were really enjoying themselves. Even we with 3803 had managed to keep to time with the tight timetable; something I was very pleased about! The big black engine was soon coupled up and ready with the on time 4:15 departure for Shenton. The image below was taken during one of the days routine check-overs and a fresh oiling of the wheel backs and slidebars...
On the last trip 3803 continued to perform well. She steamed well, pulled well and proved no trouble. Her age may be showing but she is still a strong old engine and very pleasant to drive. Upon our arrival back at Shackerstone the locomotive was pulled into platform 1 behind the waiting DMU set. The railcar duo would operate two Rail-Ale specials during the evening which seemed, to us, to be well patronised. The 38' simmered happily in platform 1 until the road ahead was clear and we could pull into No11 road for disposal...
All in all this had been a long, tiring but very enjoyable day. We may sometimes moan about what we do but, allas, we do love it. I for one have been very lucky to fire what I've fired and drive what I've driven, and I do appreciate that. I must thank ColinT of Flickr for sending in some great images for use in this post and thank Steve & James for their company aboard the shining heavy freight 2-8-0 No3803. Thanks all...
"I am a massive mighty creature
When fed and watered I am Energy
I am Effort, I am Power
I am a product of the skill of man, and therefore respond to Man's commands
When I am unleashed I am a furious, rushing beast of burden
Industry and Commerce cannot do without me
 I am essential in Peace and War. I am the Steam Locomotive"
(Taken from "Meet the Locomotive" - R.Bernard Way, 1947)

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