Saturday, 12 September 2015

A Grand Day's Driving at Statfold Barn...

"Leaving New Road" (G.Cryer)
Good day everyone. My day today started like most; at dawn. It was the day of the final SBR Enthusiasts Day of the 2015 season and, as usual, it was going to be a cracker. Having battled through horrendous rain on my way to Statfold, the deluge had restrained itself to a light drizzle by the time I arrived. It was that fine rain that always soaks you through! My fellow engineman: JB: was already there and had a good fire lit in ex-Lautoka No19. The engine was singing away to herself whilst John made preparations about the footplate. Having changed into my overalls and coat ready for the damp morning conditions, we duly trotted off to the tea room for a cuppa'. All around, the other 14 engines in steam today were gradually coming to life. Tea drank and loco prepped, we soon received our first call. No19 hissed cautiously onto the turntable, spilling plenty of water from her drain cocks. The engine was then backed steadily down on top of Brazil class "Howard". Once coupled up, the stage was now set for our first train, scheduled for just before 9am. No19 sat quietly with a light but bright fire...
No19 is seen here heading up the rear of the first outward train, along with "Howard"...
The footplate of No19 is surprisingly roomy. This chunky 0-4-0 employs Walschaerts valve gear to put the power down and has a handy steam brake for relatively trouble free stopping. The fairly reliable injectors provide the water feed to the boiler and the regulator is quite smooth in operation. All in all, she's a fairly pleasant thing to be on...
At this time on a damp and drizzly morning, nothing could be better than a piping hot sausage & bacon cob and a nice cup of tea. We do get looked after at the SBR...
Stomachs replenished, it was time for the 0830 Safety Briefing. Following that, with the persistent drizzle still at it, the first train was almost ready to depart. The ensemble would be led by the 0-6-0 diesel locomotive "Badger", hauling the ex-Lynton coaches with "Howard" and No19 tailing. At Oak Tree, No19 would be split off ready to return the single line token to Statfold Jnc Box. The maroon four wheeler hissed back up the line easily light engine, before being stabled in the Goods Siding. Soon enough, with the correct signals received, the engine was brought into the old bay platform to couple up to the waiting freight train...
We would haul the freight around the entire line, with "Sybil Mary" and "Statfold" hanging off the back. John was on the fireman's side making up the fire with the smoky Scottish coal, whilst I made preparations for departure on the drivers side. Leaving Statfold Jnc, the full weight of the freight train attempted to push No19. The steam brake was fairly effective and managed to 'slow them up' without argument, even on these wet rails. The train ran easily to the balloon loop, otherwise known as 'New Road', where No19 is seen sparkling in the sun...
The engine was already proving herself to be a good steamer and a strong puller. She was oiled up a second time at New Road in order to just make sure everything would stay cool. It never hurts to put more oil in if you get chance. The engine pulled the train back up to Oak Tree easily, attacking the bank in fine style, before making an evocative departure...
"Smoke & Steam at Oak Tree" (G.Cryer)
Having had a good chuff up into Statfold Jnc with the freight train, No19 was uncoupled. The signalman then called the engine back down to the box where she was immediately put onto the next passenger departure. I think this was just to speed the job up a bit. All around us, visitors were flocking in. At least 1500 guests were booked in for today and it was going to be a busy one. Anyway, our second run was most enjoyable and No19 performed equally well. The third train was driven by a very restless John, and wore a special headboard...
This time I was working on the fireman's side and, I must admit, things were very easy. As long as you kept the holes filled on the grate, the Hudswell would find the job no trouble. We are seen here at the foot of the bank about to attempt the final climb to Oak Tree...
"No19 In Full Flight" (G.Cryer)
We must wish Phyllis a very pleasant 75th Birthday and we hope she enjoyed the ride and the headboard. Back at Statfold Jnc, No19 was duly turned on the turntable to the delight of onlookers. The turntable demonstrations certainly bring in the punters. It is perhaps not as impressive for the crew as sometimes you have to go around and around until everyone gets that perfect shot. We were dizzy! The fourth outing for us was with a third man on the footplate: Martin. Martin is one of the SBR's footplate inspectors and carries out crew exams, both written and practical. Today was the occasion of my Driver's Exam. Regular readers will remember that I was passed to drive at the SBR last October as a 'Passed Fireman': a Fireman able to drive if required. Today involved taking the final leap to full Driver and Martin was to join us on the footplate for a round trip to watch over me. We are seen here on that very trip, leaving New Road bound for Oak Tree...
"No19 Whistles" (G.Cryer)
The locomotive was still performing very well and I am pleased to say that Martin passed me. I am now officially an SBR Driver! I am very pleased indeed. After this run we were once again placed on the turntable before being released to relax on the shed...
After a short break, and a cheeseburger each, we steamed down off the shed ready to take up our place at the head of our final passenger departure of the day. This run was also most enjoyable and No19 was a joy...
"Final Trip" (G.Cryer)
It was so strange being on the wrong side of the cab. John has been my regular driver at both the SBR and Shack for many years and so having him as a fireman was most odd! He did comment afterwards that he had "only driven one trip"! It was a good laugh. The obligatory crew selfie soon followed, with John (JB to his friends) caught off guard...
John drove the engine about for the final few moves of the day, which saw No19 doing some shunting about the yard and station. She was then moved to the Goods Siding to make ready for the end of the day line-up...
Well folks, that's about it. The SBR September do always includes an evening exhibitor train (a private one like) and this was to be hauled by the Fiji sisters: No19 and "Fiji" herself. This meant that we did in fact handover No19 at around 5:30pm, to another crew. We had given her a good end of the day clean but the usual disposal wasn't required: bang on! After a fantastic day in great company on a lovely engine there was nothing else left to do but, yes you've guessed it...have a beer! I must thank the SBR for having us once again and thank John for putting up with me on board this pretty little engine. Finally I must thank Mr Geoff Cryer who kindly sends in pics for me to use of his days out at Statfold. Thanks Geoff! You can see his fantastic Rail Diaries by clicking here. A grand day. All the best, Sam...

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