Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Evesham Vale: A Day with "St Egwin"...

Hi everyone. Today I was rostered to drive at the Evesham Vale Light Railway. Having enjoyed a pleasant run along the A46 through the Warwickshire countryside, I arrived at the nearby McDonalds at just before 8am. The obligatory breakfast was then devoured whilst listening to the news on Radio 4. Stomach replenished, I drove the last couple of miles to Evesham Country Park and the EVLR's base of Twyford Station. Having said "hello" to owners Adrian & Sandra, I signed in before heading to the shed frontage. On the roster for today was "St Egwin": Exmoor No312 of 2003. This large 0-4-0 tender engine has been featured on the blog many times in the past and I was pleased that I would be driving her today. Having rolled No312 out of the shed and into the morning air, I immediately set to preparing the engine. The smokebox, firebox and gauge glasses were all checked before the grate was cleaned and a fresh fire lit...
Evesham engines come round with the aid of a compressed air line. With the fire just beginning to take, you simply connect the airline to a fitting attached to the smokebox and set the air to the desired feed. It is normally set so that it just keeps the smoke out of the cab, thus gently drawing the heat from the embryo fire through the tubes via the vacuum being created. "St Egwin" is a pretty engine; beautifully proportioned I feel...
With the fire lit and taking nicely, it wasn't long before "St Egwin" began to sing away to herself. I meanwhile set to with the cleaning tasks: Peek for the Brasses, Pledge for the Paintwork. Just before 10am, the engine was shining and looked a picture in the morning sunlight. I couldn't believe my luck with todays weather! The final task was to oil up. Exmoor engines are simple beasts in this regard: the bearings are all roller bearings and require a light greasing only, whilst half a dozen trimming pots and a few dotted oiling points are all she needs to keep her moving on the bearing oil side. With a blob of steam oil on each die block too, the oiling/greasing was soon over. When Exmoor built these engines, they certainly knew how to make them easy to look after! With a pip on her whistle and the hissing of steam escaping from her drain cocks, No312 moved gently off shed as the groaning yard points squealed beneath her. Leaving shed on the EVLR, you steam out to the mouth of the yard before halting for a blow-down. The blowing down process is carried out each morning before the first train and loses roughly 1/2 a glass of water, expelling harmful lime deposits which may otherwise settle inside the boiler. The engine is seen here prior to blowing down...
Soon enough, "St Egwin" was ready and waiting with the 10:30am departure from Twyford...
Slightly late (as we thought we'd have no passengers until some turned up at the last minute), "St Egwin" steamed triumphantly out of Twyford on the first run of the day. There isn't a big requirement to leave the drains open for too long as the engine is a saturated type, doing away with the hideously long steam circuit often found on superheated engines - once the condensate is expelled, shut the drains and carry on. "Egwin" steamed easily to the summit of the first climb, before dropping down gently towards Evesham Vale. The engine is seen there, awaiting departure on the 11:30 trip...
Once back at Twyford, the engine is uncoupled and then turned in readiness for the next trip. Trainee Guard Graham - "Yam Yam" (another ex-Shack man) - takes the strain of No312 as he turns her ready for the Midday train...
The weather really was beautiful today. The EVLR is a very pretty little railway and on days like today views from Evesham Vale can stretch out for miles. Here, a Drivers view from No312 as the engine climbs Twyford Bank with the returning Midday train...
I felt that prior to the departure of the 1pm train it was time for a cuppa' and a spot of lunch. This was enjoyed in the warmth of "St Egwin"s cab...
The road ahead in readiness for the 1pm departure...
Passenger loadings today were surprisingly strong, with some of the trains being full to capacity with even 4 coaches behind "St Egwin". On those runs, the engine was working quite hard, particularly when climbing Fishers Bank on the main climb to Evesham Vale - she sounded a treat! She is seen at Evesham Vale on a mid-afternoon working...
The winter service at the EVLR sees the final departure at 4pm, by which time of course the light has already pretty much failed. "St Egwin" was still performing very well as we awaited departure with the 3:30pm trip - she just did what you wanted...
I was having a lovely time driving "St Egwin" today. When leaving Evesham Vale; having given your acknowledgement to the Guard after leaving the trailing points; you could just sit back and listen to No312 taking Twyford Bank in her stride. She'd just soldier up there with ease, throwing white steam over her shoulder. Soon enough, the final departure of the day (the 4pm) beckoned and the fire was made up carefully in readiness to run the engine down on the return leg. This Welsh coal has the engines steaming very well with very little on the grate and so a light, bright fire is the order of the day...
Having enjoyed a lightly loaded final train of the day, "St Egwin" marched back up to Twyford with the fire bed having been thinned out. The locomotive was uncoupled and turned one final time in the dim light before steaming gingerly back onto the shed road for disposal. The point-work groaned under the weight of the Exmoor 0-4-0 - its surprising to note just how heavy these engines are! The shed lights are seen beaming down on No312...
Disposing of the engine requires the usual: thin the fire, empty the ashpan and fill the boiler to settle the steam. Additionally it was "Egwin"s tube cleaning night and so I cleaned the tubes with the usual cumbersome brush before scooping out the contents of the smokebox floor. The engine then enjoyed another good clean before I drove her gently backwards into the shed after a successful day out. The EVLR engines are kept immaculately and its a pleasure to see engines being treated this way. I'd had a lovely day aboard "St Egwin" and it had been a pleasure to once again volunteer on the EVLR. If you still haven't visited (despite all of my ramblings!) then please do go along and see them - their website is here. Its a very pretty little railway with lovely loco's hauling neat carriages in a pleasant setting with (if you get the weather) excellent views. All in all, another lovely day out with steam. My thanks go to Adrian & Sandra for their continued hospitality and to Graham for putting up with me on the regulator whilst he did his Guard's training. All the best all, Sam...

No comments: