Saturday, 21 November 2015

"Rood Ashton Hall" Goes To Oxford: Post No100...

"Homeward Bound" (Pic - S.Hassell)
Good evening everyone. Welcome to Post No100 of 2015 and a write-up about "Rood Ashton Hall"s outing to Oxford today. My day began like most; before dawn. In fact, when I arose this morning at around 5am, I looked out of the window and to my horror it was snowing! I know its November now but come on! Having dragged myself out the door and into the car ready for the icy run to Tyseley, there was time for the traditional McDonalds stop on route. I arrived at the site of the former 84E shed at just before 6:30am with, I might add, not a trace of snow on the ground. It was cold though, very cold. Having meandered through the site, I met up with Alastair and we wandered into the sanctuary of the engine shed. At the mouth of the shed, amongst several big names of preservation, stood 4965. The Hall was acting as some old fashioned central heating as the shed was toasty near the simmering engine. At that point I was asked to open the roller door and a hundred mile an hour gale came hurtling in around my knees: hideous. With a pip of the whistle, 4965 moved gracefully outside, leaving the shed in a cloud of steam. Other members of the Support Crew team gradually arrived and set to cleaning, oiling and kitting out "Rood Ashton". As the first of the days light made an appearance, 4965 stood shining outside the shed...
The operating arm of Tyseley is Vintage Trains, who sell tickets on board the excursion trains to fund projects within the collection, such as the overhaul of "Clun Castle". The trips take the engines to a variety of destinations across the country and today 4965 was off to Oxford. The 'normal' route to Oxford from Birmingham would probably be down Hatton Bank but, as thats not very long as such, todays route would take us via Snow Hill before running through Kidderminster down the old 'Worse and Worse' (the Wolverhampton - Worcester) and on to Oxford through the Cotswolds. With a load of 7 coaches plus the GUV (service vehicle) the Hall was to be in good voice, showing her might on Network Rail metals. At just after 8am, the engine is seen on the train steam heating prior to an 0930 departure...
Today was to be an 'insight' for me, to see what the Support Crew gets up to during an average day out with Tyseley. The main task of the support crew is to look after the welfare of the engine. This involves moving coal, helping with watering, oiling, cleaning and making sure she's well for the trip ahead. Naturally, with main line steam, nothing can be left to chance as the slightest delay caused to a normal service train can have serious consequences. All main line steamers these days have to be on top of their game and it is part of the Support Crew's job to ensure this. Today I could help on board the support coach and during station stops though naturally I couldn't alight from the coach at lineside (you need a PTS for that). Anyway, back to the run. 4965 left Tyseley on time, making a good show of the strong climb out of the works. She ran easily through the frosty morning air, picking up more passengers at Snow Hill before slinking through the Birmingham suburbs and out towards Kidderminster, whistling past the SVR at quite a rate. There was a water stop at Worcester, where the water in the tender was gladly replenished.

From Worcester, 4965 seemed to just cruise along and made Oxford on time after a pleasant run through the glory of the Cotswold countryside. With the passengers having alighted for a day in Oxford, the ECS was moved into a nearby loop for stabling. 4965 herself duly departed for Didcot for turning on the main line triangle there, returning to us some time later. The departure from Oxford was just after 5pm and, due to the time of year, took place in complete darkness. The engine was in good voice leaving Oxford, accelerating with ease, throwing white steam over her shoulder. Whistling past Kidderminster once again we spotted the Heavy Freight No2857 waiting to depart on an evening Diner. Next, during an operational stop at Stourbridge Junction, the Support Crew were deployed to throw bags of coal up onto 4965's tender in readiness for the climb up Old Hill. The engine was by no means out of coal but good fresh lumps rather than slack are vital to keeping a 'clean' fire bed whilst climbing hard. We were captured in our work on the platform...
"Crew at Work" (Pic - S.Hassell)
Having got away from Stourbridge and back into her stride, 4965 took on Old Hill bank in fine style. The photograph below goes some way to showing the extent of her efforts...
"Climbing Old Hill Bank" (Pic - A.Edkins)
Having had a good climb of Old Hill despite a speed restriction near the top, the engine seemed to fly back to Snow Hill, arriving right on time. The Saturday evening revellers were nothing short of in awe of the engine and, beer bottles in hand, couldn't seem to believe what they were seeing at eight o'clock on a Saturday night! The engine was photographed at Snow Hill to within an inch of her life before departing sedately, following the path of a service train. Having slinked through Moor Street and out into the industrial backwaters of the city, the locomotive arrived triumphantly home at Tyseley Loco Works. Carrying the "Tillys Birthday Express" headboard, 4965 was about to blow off steam...
Our arrival back at Tyseley was right on time and no sooner had we pulled in than the Class 08 was rudely awakened from her slumbers in order to shunt release "Rood Ashton". Once released, 4965 ran backwards up the yard before sidling down to the turntable. Once turned, the Great Western engine slithered happily back to the shed for disposal after a job well done. It had been a very pleasant day out, taking in the sights and sounds of a steam locomotive doing exactly what she was designed to do. I'm not at Tyseley next weekend but I am hoping to join them on the run to Lincoln on December 5th, running via Nuneaton and Leicester for the Lindum Christmas Fayre. Thanks very much for reading folks and I must thank the guys who have kindly sent in images to be used in this post as there is simply no way to photograph an engine whilst you're tearing along behind one! As a final note on 4965, click here to see a video from YouTube of her rambling through the Cotswolds, or click here to see her climbing Old Hill Bank.

Finally, a quick mention about Post No100 of 2015. The post No100 of 2014 actually appeared on the same weekend last year and so, well, though I haven't beaten myself this year I've actually kept pace! My many thanks go out to the readers who continue to read the dribble that I scrawl on these pages: thank you. Best Regards All, Sam...

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