Saturday, 19 March 2016

Tyseley: The Castle Breathes Again...

Hello all. Today was a very pleasant, if breezy, outing to Tyseley. After an early start away from home, a kind journey along the A45 resulted in a 6:45am arrival at the works. Followers of main line steam with know of the current situation within the industry and thus there are a lot fewer railtours actually operating, not just locally but nationwide, than were originally planned. With that said I won't go any further into the subject but despite this the patiently waiting Castle Class No5043 was out and about today in the Tyseley yard. 1936-built "Earl of Mount Edgcumbe" would today be featuring in a program of exclusive Footplate Experience courses on the site of the former 84E. Most of the Tyseley team attending today were on site by 7:00am and it wasn't long before the rudely awakened Class 08 sprung into action to drag the Castle out into the chilly morning air...
The Great Western Castle Class is an arguably magical machine. The naysayers can come out with all the technical jargon their minds harbour but the Castle is a lean, muscular looking engine that achieved great success. The first example of this four-cylinder 4-6-0 appeared in 1923, with their numbers eventually totalling 171. Built as "Barbury Castle", the "Earl" was renamed in 1937 after a director of the Great Western Railway. She remained in service until 1963 before finding herself in the famous Welsh scrapyard at Barry. Ten years later she was saved, in part, by the Tyseley team as a source of spares for her younger sister 7029 "Clun Castle". It looked as though, back then, that the "Earl" would only survive as parts within 7029. However, a reprieve came in 1997 when the decision was made to fully restore 5043 to main line running condition. After a painstaking and very expensive overhaul, the Castle moved under her own power for the first time in preservation in 2008. Since then she has gone on to become a reliable, powerful and record breaking performer and its all thanks to the skills and efforts of the lads who restored her at Tyseley. This morning, the "Earl" looked a picture outside the shed as she was oiled up... 
Having helped oil up the express passenger engine and quenched her thirst with 3000 gallons of water, the locomotive moved carefully out onto the demo line. Clearing the steam circuit of an engine with a 4-row superheater like this one takes time and 5043 took a few steady runs up and down the yard to warm herself through a bit. The engine is spotted on her first 'Foot Ex' trip up the yard, taking things easy at first...
I've included a few images below for your interest. Here, 5043 steams past the slumbering Class 08 that dragged her from her resting place first thing this morning...
The 'Foot Ex' course involved hands on experience on the footplate, with instruction on both driving and firing. Alastair and Dean: both main line firemen: were in charge. Below, the "Earl" pauses at the extremity of the yard ready to reverse back down. At this point the participant was no doubt wrestling with the screw reverser!..
It was a great pleasure to see the "Earl" out and about again. A no doubt jealous 4965 "Rood Ashton Hall" was watching in envy from the gloom of the loco shed as the Castle chugged easily backwards and forwards...
The beautiful Castle Class 4-6-0 sets out on another run...
The participants were certainly enjoying themselves as smiles beamed down from the footplate each time 5043 passed by. The engine is seen here on the barrow crossing ready to set off again for the top of the yard...

This was a very rare chance indeed to enjoy a Footplate Experience aboard a Castle Class 4-6-0, not to mention a double-chimney supersonic, high-speed, top spec, upgraded version! At present the "Earl" is the only operating GWR Castle and is one of only two double chimney engines in preservation: the other is of course Tyseley's pioneer No7029 "Clun Castle". Imagine the day when two double-chimney Castle's size one another up in the yard...I can't wait! The "Earl" was busy for most of the morning whilst myself and a few of the other volunteers busied ourselves with little jobs in and around the loco shed. The Castle was banked up and filled up ready for her lunch break, during which she sat care-free in the platform with the safety valves lightly feathering...
"5043 - A Castle At Rest"
During the afternoon there were various works tours and more footplate outings going on as the "Earl" made sure all of Birmingham knew she was out and about. Her voice was echoing everywhere on this stiff Winter breeze. The event concluded at around 5pm and then a few of us were lucky enough to try out the regulator of the Castle for ourselves: what a machine. It was my first experience driving a 4-cylinder engine and I tell you what, you've got some power there! The Castle was a great thrill to drive and I am still buzzing from the experience. What a day. I left Tyseley at around 6pm for the journey home. Cheers all, Sam...

2 comments:

Linda said...

Wonderful post and photos.

Sam Brandist said...

Hi there. Thanks for your comment and thanks for reading :)