Saturday, 2 April 2016

Statfold: A Day with "Howard"...

Hi everyone. Today was another volunteer operating day at Statfold Barn. It was essentially a training day, but one of a much more practical nature. It was basically a 'Practise Open Day', allowing drivers, firemen, cleaners and train staff to become familiar with the new track layout and signalling system which will debut at next weekends Spring Open Day. I arrived at Statfold at just before 7:00am, having had a leisurely 40-minute drive over - one benefit to getting up to the dawn chorus is that most traffic isn't out & about yet! Upon arrival at the damp frontage of the engine shed, someone uttered the word "roster". We discovered the unexpected roster in the running shed and I found my name scribbled next to "Howard". "Howard" is the Hunslet Brazil Class 0-4-2, built in 1936. She has featured on the blog before a couple of times, both as "Howard" and "Josephine" - she had a sex change a couple of years ago! I immediately met up with trainee fireman Caroline who duly made us a nice cuppa' whilst I raked the old ashes through the grate from yesterdays warming fire...
With the grate clean, the boiler well filled and a compliment of wood thrown in the box along with some raging paraffin-soaked rags, the fire was soon crackling away nicely. The Brazil started singing away to herself happily as other engines began to come to life all around. Its been a long steam-less Winter and the atmosphere on shed in the smoky haze of a damp morning was most welcome as "Howard" brewed up behind younger sister Brazil Class "Trangkil No4"; a mere youngster of 1971 vintage...
It was soon time to begin oiling up. The Brazil classes, though they're all similar, have slight differences. "Howard" for example carries inside Stephenson's and not outside Hackworth valve gear like "Trangkil". "Howard", though a Hunslet, is very much of Kerr Stuart descent in her looks. She has neat screw top pots on most oiling points which, between us, we gradually made our way around with the motion oil. The cylinders are lubricated by a frame-mounted lubricator driven off the crosshead but the top-pots are still on the cylinders (a fact we would find most useful later in the day!)...
"Howard" was the last of the fleet to be called off shed and Driver JB: having arrived to find a lovely steamed up, watered and ashed out engine: was on the handle for the move. There were 8 locomotives in action today: two on the high level on a top & tailed working and 6 on the low level. I had just made up the fairly dark fire and, after a good chuff upgrade to fetch the waiting coach, created quite a smoke storm in the platform. Morgan was heard to say - as I got my camera out to catch the plume drifting skywards - "Sam, its just smoke. You can see smoke anywhere!"...
The trains today were made up of single coaches, simply to get rid of the need for lots of shunting to get out full rakes of ECS. Having got the two signals, the right away and the token on board the engine, we were soon rumbling down the field towards Oak Tree. Having traversed the balloon loop with ease and chugged back up the bank, "Howard" is seen watering at the Oak Tree mega hose...
"A Drink For Howard"
A dressed-for-the-weather JB did not appreciate my comments about his famous bright blue trousers but I think he was having a good day so far!...
After our first run it was, surprisingly, time for lunch-break and an unusual consist was made up to allow all of the locos, crews and staff to get down to Oak Tree on the token: a train of two coaches and four engines! Once at Oak Tree with locos stopped and screwed down, the scene was like we'd just heard the four minute warning as countless bib 'n' brace clad whistle blowers stormed across the Oak Tree yard pushing and shoving in readiness to assume their rightful place at the head of the buffet queue...
"Engines That Lunch"
The engines waited patiently whilst we ate, simmering away gently in weather that simply could not make its mind up. It was a damp wet morning which, by the time we returned from our feed, had began to break into sunshine. Upon my return to the engine the fire had thinned considerably with steam continuing to thankfully nudge the red line. It was time to add some more of the smoky stuff ready for the run back up towards Statfold...
I was on the regulator for the Oak Tree restart. We had a gentle run up to Statfold, being dragged by the lead engine and just keeping on some drift steam. At the station, we were split again ready to leave but some unruly oil had caught my eye. "Howard" had burst her lubricator glass and thus was not oiling. Therefore we reverted to the top-pots on the cylinders, which worked very well indeed, whist the lubricator had its arm disconnected and tied up for the rest of the day. After the modification, we were duly sent off cab first with our single coach. "Howard" rattled and rocked along the track easily and was soon basking in the sun down at the balloon loop, awaiting a path...
JB had relegated himself to Fireman at this point but was still smiling...
After a pleasant cab first run back to Statfold: "Howard" allows great visibility in reverse: we pulled into platform 2, allowing "Trangkil" to depart platform 1. We then took over the next arriving ECS, ready for a chimney first departure in the sun...
The road ahead: awaiting the board...
Caroline tried her hand at driving on this trip whilst I fired and JB surveyed the scenery. He did of course give a good old commentary to every move I made, as per! The weather had really picked up for our afternoon on the footplate and it was most pleasant...
We had one more cab first trip before things started to wrap up a little bit. We had to tail newly restored "Alpha" with a chimney to chimney 2-coach rake after which we were removed from the consist for stabling light engine in platform 2. The Hunslet was simmering nicely but the fire was soon made up again so we could drag five coaches up into the platform ready for "Isibutu" and the big Fowler to drop on the back...
The four engines took the five coaches down to Oak Tree before the larger pair split off and steamed into the roundhouse for disposal. "Howard" and the Hudswell Clarke shared duties and helped each other out to put the coaches away. With the job done, the two engines steamed back to Statfold ready for disposal on the shed. It had been a pleasant, interesting and humorous day with JB aboard "Howard" and I am now immensely looking forward to the Spring Open Day next Saturday. Finally, seeing as we're here and reading...
We are still very much selling tickets for the Miniature Steam Rally in three weeks time. There will be ALOT to see. If anyone ever reads this blog and thinks how good it would be to visit Statfold with the family then this is your chance. We have a very large collection of miniature traction engines and lorries joining us from across the country for the weekend as well as five full size ones, including "Fiery Elias". We also have 5 of the beautiful SBR collection in steam as well as others on display. We also have stands, live steam model railways, toy steam, fairground models and much more on display as well as a bouncy castle for the younger visitors. We are pulling out all the stops to make the SBR's first ever family friendly steam event a success and we hope to see some of you there. To download the booking form for tickets, click here. Thanks for reading all and look out for more Statfold next weekend. Cheers, Sam...

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