Sunday, 27 September 2015

Return to "Cumbria": The Age of Austerity...

Good evening all. Well, another very enjoyable day aboard "Cumbria"; the visiting Hunslet Austerity currently operating Battlefield Line steam services. I was rostered as Driver once again today, this time with my good friend and colleague Mick on the shovel. We were joined on the footplate by trainee Julia, making up the footplate trio. The day began at 06:30. There was a chill in the air but the sky was clear as I made my way along the ash pathway towards the engine shed. Inside, the warmth was still beaming from the red bulk of "Cumbria": fresh from yesterdays antics. Having changed into my overalls and welcomed Mick & Julia, it was time to get started. Mick got underway with the fire preparations whilst Julia began the laborious task of cleaning an engine that's steaming up indoors. I meanwhile was making my way around the engine in the usual fashion, with an oil feeder in one hand and a torch in the other. My pockets are normally stuffed with rag at this point, in order to wipe away the unavoidable oil spills. By 07:30, "Cumbria" was smoking up the shed as the fire began to catch onto the fresh coal...
A peek through the firehole doors reveals the beginnings of the fire...
The three of us went about our morning tasks whilst chatting and drinking tea at regular intervals. With the oiling up soon completed and some steam on the gauge, we decided to take the Austerity outside. The shed begins to sweat after a while and its a shame to see the efforts of the cleaner ruined by the residue falling from above. Once outside, the fruit of Julia's efforts was evident as the tank and dome were shining. Mark duly arrived with our 'Footplate Experience' participant for this mornings course and I duly showed him around the engine and explained a little about her design, pedigree and history. Mark then showed him around the shed whilst the three of us washed up and got changed ready for the day ahead. The 'Foot Ex' courses take the same format each time. First we do the safety briefing, the loco chat and explain the controls on the footplate. Then, we take the loco to Market Bosworth light engine, returning in the same manner without fuss. To complete the course we take the passenger rake for a full round trip of the line, returning to Shackerstone in time to run round and water up ready for the 11:15 public departure. "Cumbria" is spotted waiting to depart Shackerstone with the 'Foot Ex' round trip with the coaches...
Today the 'Foot Ex' was most enjoyable to do. Once we'd left Shack the weather improved greatly and a clear blue sky and warm sunshine were the order of the day. Our participant picked the job up lovely; he was a pleasure to teach. Mick had things well in hand on the fireman's side whilst I explained the various parts of the line and the things we should be looking out for to the trainee driver. Mick caught this shot from the fireman's side as we marched happily up Shenton Bank with the returning 'Foot Ex' trip...
"The Road Ahead" (M.Jones)
The 'Foot Ex' guy seemed to really enjoy himself and thanked us for our efforts once we arrived back at Shackerstone. He then went off to enjoy the buffet with his family on the first round trip of the day. No such rest for us as we sprung immediately back into action to get "Cumbria" ran round and watered up...
Mick is enjoying the weather from the less than comfortable position atop the tank...
The locomotive was soon coupled up to the 11:15 departure and the rather pleasant weather seemed set to continue throughout the day. "Cumbria" was in good shape as we prepared to create vacuum and todays 'office' looked rather impressive...
Leaving Shackerstone a few minutes down, "Cumbria" got the weight moving with ease. Having collected the single line token from the box and eased through the slack, the saddle tank had the train accelerating well once we'd cleared Barton Bridge. The engine was once again in good voice and was shouting her head off as we rumbled past Congerstone. Shutting off for Hedleys with a good long blast on the Midland whistle, the engine rolled towards Carlton in full reverse; as per slide valve practise. Mick was right on the button on the fireman's side, keeping things quiet using the injector but with the needle never really leaving the red line. We sauntered into Bosworth quietly due to the 'Heavy Horse Weekend': we didn't wish to cause a Wild West Stampede through the village! Once out of the platform and up to Deer Park, we accelerated once again with "Cumbria" telling the world she was coming. Romping through Far Coton and out towards Bosworth Battlefield, I shut off and assumed full reverse before reaching for the vacuum brake on the descent of Shenton Bank. We clanked neatly into Shenton with steam to spare and came to rest at the end of the platform, just as always. Once run round and back on the front of the train ready for a prompt departure, breakfast was served. It was absolutely divine...
Once you've done all the preparation and the first few trains of the day on a full size steamer, breakfast is most definitely the most longed for! With the first train complete, it wasn't long before we were chugging down to Shenton with the slightly late running 12:30 trip. For the 13:45 train, Mick was on the handle whilst I did the firing. The Austerity was once again steaming particularly well and was no trouble. The engine was getting smartly away from station stops with the 4-coach train; attempting to catch up the time lost unloading and loading many passengers at Market Bosworth. The 15:00 departure was running about 20 minutes late and is seen waiting to leave Shack whilst more passengers board...
Mick and Julia take a break at Market Bosworth whilst more passengers join the train...
After a good run to Shenton, "Cumbria" ran round ready for another prompt departure. She is seen here during the stop at Market Bosworth on the return trip...
By the time the final train of the day (the 16:15 off Shack) came around, I think its fair to say we were all starting to wear out. The engine was still going well but it had been a long and very hot day. Mick drove us neatly out of Shackerstone with the 20 minutes late final departure, with "Cumbria" smoking up a storm near Barton Bridge...
Mick gets "Cumbria" underway as we accelerate away from Shackerstone... 
Soon enough, the engine was waiting to run round at Shenton ready for the final run home...
"Cumbria In The Headshunt" (M.Jones)
By this time of the day the fire is generally getting 'dirty'. The bed will be starting to clinker with ash and the primary air coming through the grate won't be able to do its job. Over 50 miles of steaming had taken its toll on "Cumbria"s fire and Mick decided to make life easier for himself on the final trip back by completely cleaning the fire. Wielding the heavy fire dart around the cab, he'd soon broken away the clinker and was adding some good shovelfuls of fresh coal ready for our imminent departure...
With the fire made up, "Cumbria" builds up pressure whilst Julia looks on...
With the right away received and a blow on the whistle, "Cumbria" chugged out of Shenton with the days final train. Her voice echoed across the Leicestershire countryside as the last of the days sun shone against the maroon livery of her tank. During our final Market Bosworth break, we had the new 'must': a footplate selfie!...
"Driver Sam, Fireman Mick, Trainee Julia - A Grand Day" (J.Ross)
From Market Bosworth back to Shackerstone, the cleaner fire now blazing away in the box was evident as "Cumbria" steamed brilliantly. Mick had the engine quiet with the injector running as we dropped into Shack and handed over the single line token to the bobby. With the Hunslet uncoupled and through No7, we steamed up to the ground frame (No11) and duly proceeded into the shed for disposal. Then came the usual disposal process: deaden the fire, fill the boiler, isolate everything and clean the footplate. Dragging our belongings down the steps in the traditional end of the day manner, we all fell into the mess area for a wash. All in all it had been a grand day out and I must thank Mick & Julia for their helpful and comedic company! Best Regards, Sam...

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