Sunday, 4 October 2015

Evesham: A "Monty" Fine Day...

Hi everyone. Today the sun rose above a chilly morning mist before creating a pretty setting for my drive down to Evesham. It was an easy drive: no traffic, no obstructions, no hassle. I was rostered to drive steam today on the 15" gauge metals and was very much looking forward to it. The autumn weather is now beginning to set in and the temperature gauge on the BMW duly recognised this. The first stop; as with all footplate experiences; was McDonalds. On a fresh morning that will soon be followed by an outing with steam, the McDonalds breakfast has to be the undisputed food of the Gods...
Stomach replenished, I continued the last couple of miles to the EVLR's base at Twyford. Having met up with Adrian & Sandra, thoughts turned to signing in and finding out the latest news. My locomotive for the day was "Monty": the Exmoor-built 0-4-2 that used to be "Markeaton Lady". The shining red side tank was soon outside, basking in the morning sun whilst preparations began on her footplate. Having cleaned the grate, checked the tubes, the plugs and the water level, the loco was ready to light up...
At Evesham, the locomotive is lit with a mixture of paraffin rags and dry wood. Though "Monty" was still warm from yesterdays antics, the fire still requires a little 'draw air'. This is provided by the trusty air compressor in the engine shed and, with the airline attached, the 0-4-2 began to crackle away to herself happily. As well as drawing the fire, the airline also keeps the smoke out of the cab and away from the cream interior paintwork. With the fire lit, its time to get your Brasso and your Pledge out and get the engine cleaned. Steaming up here is quite a pleasant affair: everything is under your hand, the tools are all in reach and the area around you isn't an oil soaked ash bed. The friendly dog walkers bid you "good day" as they saunter by and the quietly brewing engine is always a talking point. Adrian really did do a splendid job on "Monty": she looks the bees knees...
With the engine cleaned and steaming up nicely, it was time to oil up. Oiling up is a quick affair as most of the engine is on either trimming pots or grease points. The axleboxes for example only need doing every six months: what a difference to life aboard a Great Western 2884! By 10am, "Monty" was sitting pretty with a light, bright fire and 100psi on the clock. With a shrill blast on her shining whistle, the engine hissed easily away from the shed frontage and out onto the single line. Here, we blow down 1/2 a glass to clear the scale and muck from the boiler. "Monty" is later seen at the head of the waiting 10:30 departure in rather clement weather...
Today's 'office' is spotted just before the off, with Trevor the Guard waiting 'right time'...
Washed and changed into full railway uniform, I was ready when the right away came. "Monty" hauled the 3-coach train easily out of Twyford Station, with just a few early passengers on board. The fire was now taking hold as the 'cold hearted' engine began to warm through. I've said it so many times over the years on this blog but its still true: engines only warm through properly after their first or second run, hence why some first trips of the day are the most troublesome. Once on our way back from Evesham Vale up the bank, "Monty" was steaming as normal and required minimal effort to keep her on form...
A drivers eye view ahead from "Monty" with the returning Midday trip...
It was all so nice today. The weather was kind, the passengers were happy, the engine was immaculate; a typical day really at Evesham. I'm sure on some railways its quite a struggle to get through a day on an engine, but not here: its just lovely. The tank engine went about her days business with ease and it was most enjoyable to be at her regulator. What is further enjoyable about Evesham is the treatment towards volunteers by the owners. As usual, on the mid afternoon train, a piping hot cuppa' and a slice of cake appeared on the footplate: a most civilised way to travel...
"Monty" is seen ready to leave Twyford on an afternoon turn...
The driving position aboard "Monty" has been improved greatly since my last visit by the addition of a padded seat: the relief is almost breath taking! A few of the afternoon trains were strengthened to four coaches and these were full to bursting on one particular run. The new play fort down at Evesham Vale is proving very popular and I'd say that 90% of passengers now break their journey there for 30 minutes or so before returning to Twyford on the next train. The EVLR has now come of age and is proving its worth as a transport system! "Monty"s fire is seen prior to an afternoon departure...
Later in the day, the engine is seen watering on the column as the sun continues to shine...
A final look aboard the footplate of "Monty" as she prepares to depart upgrade from Evesham Vale with the second to last train of the day...
As we entered the last hours of the Autumn Sunday sun, the temperature gradually dropped, allowing the exhaust from "Monty" to be seen. The little red engine threw white steam over her shoulder on the final returning trip, barking away happily with a 3-coach set on the ascent of Twyford Bank. This final trip saw the fire heavily run down, with just a light covering kept over the bars. We rolled into Twyford triumphantly having completed a most enjoyable 13 trips on EVLR metals. Uncoupled and turned one last time, "Monty" chugged happily off to the shed for disposal and a good clean. Once disposed and settling nicely, I gripped the regulator one last time and used the last of the days steam to drive the engine gently backwards into the gloom of her home. It had been a most enjoyable day and I must thank Adrian & Sandra once again for their kind welcome and hospitality. Its always a lovely day at the Evesham Vale Light Railway. Not had a ride yet?: please go and pay them a visit! Best Regards, Sam...

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