Sunday, 8 May 2016

Ryton Pools: Sunday Steam With "Diane"...

Hi all. One of the 'must do's' of being a member of Coventry MES is to help a couple of times per year with the weekly public running season. The Sunday afternoon train service operates between Easter and the end of September and, in recent years in particular, has become very popular with visitors to Ryton Pools. Today I was rostered to crew for the public running, with roving latecomer 'Eddie the Late' in charge. Most of the services on the railway are hauled by either the Class 31 or Class 37 outline electric locomotives. For me however, everything else must come second to steam and thus one of the club's trusty steam locomotives was brought out for use today. This engine is Sweet Pea-type 0-4-0 "Diane", built by a talented late club member and now part of the little used operational steam fleet...
You can see the attraction in running the electric: switch it on and it goes: but for me you must at least try to run the steam engine. Two sets would work todays services; one hauled by the Class 31 and the other hauled by "Diane". The engine was on the steaming bay just before Midday and I immediately set to filling the boiler, checking the engine over and then lighting the fire. The engine was last used on the New Years Day services I believe and was no doubt chomping at the bit to have another go! When I joined CMES in 2004, steam was all they had. The petrol hydraulic did make itself known in later years but, nine times out of ten, the steam engine would be running. It was this constant exposure to steam engines: small though they were: that slowly began to convince the 12-year old me that steam was the way forward. If it wasn't for those early years, I wouldn't be writing this now! Anyway, with the train sets ready, "Diane" was almost ready to leave the bay. Much like the Bagnall contractors locomotive's they were inspired by, the Sweet Pea's have a marine boiler and a fairly shallow grate. This means that you want a good wood fire burning before adding coal. I always add a good wedge at the back and then push it forward under the baffle...
We steamed triumphantly onto the track at around 12:45pm and, upon arrival at Ryton Halt, prepared to take passengers as soon as some turned up. The weather was beautiful today; a little too warm for a steam engine if you like! "Diane" took the first loaded train at around 12:50pm and, from then on, it was completely none stop. I was amazed at the amount of people we were taking round the 2000ft long track. The Sweet Pea was in fine form, hugging the red line for most of the trip and being quite content to be knocked back down the gauge using the crosshead pump. As long as you kept a good thick fire with plenty under the baffle, "Diane" was happy. I did get a brief chance to snap the engine whilst the dreaded electric crew got a head start at around 2:30pm...
"Sweet Pea 0-4-0 No2 Diane"
The engine continued to run well for the rest of the afternoon and, though there was a brief lull in proceedings just before 3pm, the intensity of the service didn't cease until gone 4pm. It was a great pleasure to be driving today: the sun was shining, people were waving at us everywhere we went and the little steam engine repeatedly broke the afternoon silence as she climbed the bank with train after train of happy passengers. At around 4:15pm we ran our final train and "Diane" steamed triumphantly back into Ryton Halt after an amazing little day out. I for one was very pleased with her efforts. We chugged easily back down to the bendy beam before coming off onto the run up rail. The engine was then uncoupled and hissed gracefully over onto the steaming bays for disposal. Upon opening up the smokebox, we were surprised the engine had managed to move at all...
I can honestly say I've never seen a smokebox so full with the engine still continuing to steam so well. Steaming was of course a little more reluctant than when we first started but not to a worrying level: well done "Diane"! If we examine the work done today though...the little engine completed 32 laps of the track to my count, which is equivalent to 12.1 miles or something along those lines. And they weren't just easy going laps, they were well loaded trains. This is actually well over 50 miles in scale terms, with those little wheels whizzing round with all their might! The railway carried a whopping 358 passengers today. For all the naysayers that say only the electrics can cope with the RPMR, "Diane" is a testament to miniature steam...
The engine was soon cleaned down, boiler empty, tubes swept, grate cleaned and tank buffed up ready to go back in the box for another time. I'm very pleased with today's performance, though I can tell you that 32 laps without a break driving a steam engine in todays weather has created a few stiff joints and terrible dehydration - but it was worth it! Thanks to everyone who helped run the trains at RPMR today and it was really nice to see steam doing the work and even catching up with the electric once or twice. I'll repeat, in my world, everything comes second to steam. Cheers all, Sam...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here here!

Kind regards,
Emma-claire.