Sunday, 22 May 2016

Evesham Vale Light Railway...

Hi all. Today was another very pleasant day driving steam on behalf of the Evesham Vale Light Railway in Worcestershire. I arrived at the headquarters of the 15" gauge line at around 8:15am and duly changed into my overalls for the day ahead. Having met up with owners Adrian & Sandra before signing in, I noticed the familiar number '312' written next to todays date. No312 is the big Exmoor 0-4-0 tender engine "St Egwin". Having opened up "Egwin"s shed and released the loco brake, I pushed the snoozing 0-4-0 outside into the warm morning air. Preparations were then made to get the engine ready for service. Having cleaned the grate and emptied the ashpan, it was time to check the firebox (tubeplate, tubes, fusibles, stays etc) and the smokebox (tubes, fittings, plugs, door seal) before lighting an embryo fire. The air line was duly attached to the smokebox in order to aid the drawing of the hot gases through the boiler in order to encourage the creation of steam. Coal was soon added on top of a crackling pile of wood before the fire was left to take hold at its own accord. "Egwin"s owner Steve was on hand this morning and the pair of us duly set about cleaning the engine. EVLR engines are kept to high standards of cleanliness and by 10:00am the 0-4-0 stood gleaming on the shed frontage...
The final job before leaving shed is to do the oiling and greasing. "Egwin" has 6 wick feed pots, with the other oiling points being oil holes. The bearings on the main rods are all roller bearings and are greased daily, as are the axleboxes on both the engine and tender, though they are only done every 6 months: easy! With 130psi on the clock and water being fiercely expelled from her drain cocks, No312 moved cautiously off shed as the moaning point work growled beneath her. Once out at the mouth of the yard, the engine was blown down 1/2 a glass in the usual fashion. It was then time to back down onto the waiting 3-coach train in readiness for the approaching 10:30am departure for Evesham Vale...
The first train of the day is always a steady one; finding the feel of an engine and railway that you haven't driven for a few weeks or even months! "Egwin" steamed easily up and over the showground crossing before descending the bank towards the balloon loop. By now the fire had woken up and a plume of smoke was drifting across the adjacent fields. Having enjoyed a pleasant first trip, it wasn't long before we were off again with the well loaded 11:00am train. "Egwin" is spotted on this trip having a breather at Evesham Vale...
The railway uses Welsh Steam Coal from the open cast mine at Ffos Y Fran and in fireboxes this size, taking into account the daily workload, it seems to burn fine. You get the heat when you want it but not too much smoke. I remember when it was used at Shack it had the tendency to burn firebars when under intense draw for long periods but here at Evesham the reduced primary air and lighter trains obviously lessens the burn...
"Fire In The Hole"
"St Egwin" was in fine form as usual and took little coaxing to do the job. She was quite happy. Her pressure needle gently hugged the red line for most of the day and her reliable injectors proved no trouble. The engine is a pleasure to drive and simply does what you want. Despite the strong gradients on the EVLR, "Egwin" is perfectly capable of the task in hand...
Days on the footplate at the EVLR go surprisingly quickly. There isn't a vast amount of time to do a lot between trips and so I just grab the occasional snap when I can. The intensity of the service certainly makes the time pass: you don't know if you're coming or going! The engine is spotted here waiting to depart Twyford on a later train, with the rake having been strengthened to four coaches...
I've included a shot below of the cab layout on "St Egwin", for interest. The regulator is fairly obvious with the pole reverser on the left, above which is the air brake valve which serves both loco and train, depending on the consist. The three gauges on the spectacle plate include the pressure gauge, a redundant vacuum gauge and the steam chest pressure gauge - the latter being quite a novelty on a little engine! The cab is very workable on No312 and everything is under your hand. Its an altogether pleasant engine to be out with...
Climbing the fairly strong grade of Fishers Bank on an afternoon working...
One of the trips today involved working the 'wrong way' around the balloon loop. This proved fairly interesting as the gradients are of course completely opposite. The climb up and through the tunnel was fairly vocal to say the least! "Egwin" is spotted here waiting to depart Evesham Vale in the opposite direction...
During each run round at Twyford, EVLR engines are turned on the turntable; much to the delight of onlookers. The honours of the Guard's duties went to Matt today and he is spotted here as "St Egwin" is turned in readiness for an afternoon departure...
By the 2pm trip it was time to grab some snap. I went into the Mess Room and made myself a nice hot cuppa' whilst the Exmoor 0-4-0 simmered gently outside...
Stomach replenished, "Egwin" was ready for the 2pm train. Loadings were strong today, with most of the 'peak time' trains running at almost full, if not full, capacity...
By the time the 3pm train rolled around it was time for the traditional EVLR tea and cake: a favourite of mine I must say! A special delivery always appears on the footplate at this time of day. Its surprising how small gestures like this can make such a difference, though I better not let Mum know about this otherwise she'll probably apply for driving herself...
Cake scoffed, it was time to chug gently out of Twyford with the 3pm train. "Egwin" was still in good form, happily chomping at the banks and staying neatly on the boil. There were no stresses today, even with well loaded 4-coach trains. The Exmoor engines are certainly robust and powerful! The engine is spotted at Evesham Vale towards the end of the day...
"A Very Photogenic Engine"
Its a good little chuff out of the station here; upgrade and homeward bound...
Our final train would be the 4pm as the diesel would haul the final train at 4:30pm. I decided to jump off the engine at the turntable just prior to our last trip in order to capture her being turned. This was due to memory telling me that there wasn't such a picture in the records!...
After a very pleasant 4pm trip, with "Egwin" being 'run down' ready for disposal, it wasn't long before No312 found herself back on the shed. The fire was deadened, the boiler filled, the tubes swept and the ashpan emptied. The engine was then given a jolly good clean after a successful day on EVLR metals. Its a very nice machine...
"Duties Done. Disposal On The Shed"
With only embers remaining on the grate and 50psi left on the clock, I carefully drove "St Egwin" back into her shed after a nice day out. The Exmoor 0-4-0 hissed gracefully backwards, expelling the final breaths of steam from her drains. The engine was then secured, checked and left. It had been a great day and it was also a pleasure to be on with Steve as this means that I am now officially an EVLR Driver: test passed, job done...another driving ticket on another railway. Its been a pleasure being involved with EVLR and doing that little bit of driving now & again. The locomotives are well kept, the staff are very friendly and the whole outfit is just stress-free and enjoyable, unlike others we could perhaps mention! I must thank Adrian, Sandra & Steve for giving me the opportunity and, as always, thanks for reading guys. So, I have (its had now I guess!) a Steam Driving Ticket for Shack, I have one for Statfold and I now have one for Evesham. All the best, Sam...

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Sam, what about Bala? You not a passed driver on there yet?
I guess you could also include CMES ;)
Kind regards, Emma-claire.

Sam Brandist said...

Hi Emma. Thanks for the comment. I did some firing and driving at Bala and did the rules test but was always booked as Fireman, with Ed. I hadn't been a massive amount of times in fairness. It was a great experience indeed and provides great memories. Had the ticket at Shack, now hold EVLR and Statfold ones. Hopefully not my last ticket to achieve but only time will tell! All the best, Sam