Sunday, 17 July 2016

The Shakespeare Express...

Morning all. Today's adventure started like most: at dawn. The destination was of course, following on from yesterdays post, Tyseley. The steam hobby has had me fumbling around the house at untold hours of the morning for longer than I care to remember now. I recollect a friend once saying to me that I shouldn't moan about getting up early for work as "you get up even earlier on your days off!". He was right. Anyway, into the motor I was and off for a jaunt along the M6 and the A45 into the heartland of industrial Birmingham. Naturally (I suppose it goes without saying) there was the traditional McDonalds stop on route. I can't seem to face knocking something up at home at this terribly early hour but a call in to the Golden Arches is always a prospect. Back with the job in hand, breakfast was devoured following arrival at Tyseley at not long before 7am...
Stomach satisfied, I changed into my overalls and wandered blurry eyed down through the shed. Tyseley Shed is just a typical dream scenario. You can't help sometimes but to be in awe of the many wonderful machines at arms reach. On arrival at the shed frontage, 4965 was on No1 road. Her fire was lit and she was simmering nicely, slowly coming up towards the boil. Alastair and Andrew were working away with the oil cans on and around the green 4-6-0, which carries the traditional Stephenson's valve gear. With a booked 09:35 departure towards Snow Hill with the "Shakespeare" ECS, there wasn't an overwhelming amount of time but the engine was already sparkling thanks to the efforts of the regular cleaning team. We watered the engine before she left shed and at just before 9am she was sitting pretty and was ready to pull out of the shed to take up her place at the head of the stock...
The impending movement of 4965 required the signalbox to come into play once again and, following my short stint in there yesterday, I fancied a bit more practise. The Hall would need to come out of the shed and onto the running line before the road was then changed, allowing her to drop down following clearance from the call-on arm. The sun was beaming through the windows of the signalbox this morning...
"A Signalbox Life"
Below we can see the yard diagram. The Hall was in the "Workshop Siding" (No1 road) and was signalled out before backing down onto the train...
"Yard Diagram of Tyseley Loco Works"
Having steamed up to the yard extremity to clear her steam circuit, the Hall dropped down onto the waiting Chocolate & Cream coaching stock. Under a fairly blue sky, the old engine looked beautiful as she awaited her departure slot onto Network Rail metals...
With everybody aboard the 8-coach rake, the engine got the stock away easily. We steamed triumphantly out of Tyseley before ticking gracefully through Small Heath and on towards Moor Street. Moor Street station, in the shadow of Selfridges, offers the first of the engine's great labours as she steams through with her morning ECS. Snow Hill Tunnel joins the two stations and provides 635 yards of darkness on a gradient as steep as 1 in 45. Dear me, the engine did some work climbing up there. Apparently it wasn't uncommon in steam days to "get one stuck" in the tunnel and the Fireman would have to walk for assistance from the Snow Hill Pilot. Luckily, these days, the tunnel is fairly dry and so, despite a deafening voice, the Hall stormed up the climb and into Snow Hill without fuss. There, she was uncoupled and duly run round as countless admirers boarded the train...
From Snow Hill, there are further passenger stops at both Moor Street and Tyseley before a final pick-up at Henley-In-Arden. The downward route takes the "Shakespeare Line" which runs from a junction at Tyseley right down to Stratford, via Danzey and Wilmcote. At Stratford, the engine runs round once again before the Support Crew gets to work on and about her. The coal is pulled down for the crew whilst the hoses are realed out across the car park to reach the water point and replenish the tender. As I still can't go lineside, I was happy to be helping with the watering, which I could do easily from the public areas around Stratford station...
I had to feel for the Pullman team today. On Train A (the way down) they serve a full english breakfast. At Stratford, they'll have to change the tables and set out all new cutlery as well as seating fresh guests as on Trains B & C they serve a 3-course Sunday roast. Finally, on Train D they serve Afternoon Tea's or High Tea's as required. Its a long day for them and my hat off to them for their efforts. The "Shakespeare": like most main line excursions: is a completely self contained unit. The engine is providing the power with the support crew looking after her, the Pullman team are serving meals, the stewards are helping passengers, the buffet staff are serving tea in Standard Class whilst other helpers sell souvenirs and answer questions - its all going on!

Leaving Stratford on the 1 in 75 gradient up and over the canal, "Rood Ashton Hall" made her presence known. She strode away with her 8-coach load, barking and shouting for all to hear. Usually the train goes home via the Claverdon line which takes it via Hatton and onto the main line through Solihull. However, due to engineering works, todays outings would go both ways via the North Warwick line. The climb up here is stiff most of the way, with the Hall remaining in good voice as she attacked the grades. We were soon flying along through the early afternoon sun and arrival at Snow Hill was upon us before we knew it. It was time to grab some lunch aboard the support coach as 4965 prepared to depart again...
"Lunch Stop"
Running to Stratford is done tender first, limiting the Hall to 45mph. The train slips easily through the ever changing landscape. The beautiful image below shows just what the "Shakespeare Express" is all about...
"Sunday Shakespeare Steam to Stratford" (Pic - D.Chandler)
Whilst the engine ticks merrily on towards Stratford, the support crew has little to do but discuss former exploits, put the preservation world to rights and of course slurp the occasional cup of tea. I was on the brewcan as we approached Bearley...
"Brews Up"
Once at Stratford the servicing operation resumed. 4965 ran round before coupling up and resting for an hour or so. A London Midland unit came and went before we were allowed a possession of the line to do the watering. I was again posted at the water point over the way, watching cars pass over the hoses to ensure nothing got torn apart by the odd careless motorist. Our departure was around 16:20 and this one was snapped not long before the brake was created ready for the off...
Again, we returned via the North Warwick line and 4965 was in good voice as she attacked the gradients. She is caught here on her way home...
"4965 Rood Ashton Hall" (Pic - D.Chandler)
We paused to set down passengers at both Tyseley and Moor Street before the final climb through the dark depths of Snow Hill Tunnel. From a standing start at Moor Street, the engine needs to "give it a good one" into the tunnel to get the weight moving ready for the 1 in 45. Bystanders took a lightning-fast leap backwards as she blasted away into the gloom. The noise in the tunnel is amazing - the Hall is amazing. Once secured in the platform, the train is left so that the Hall can run round again via Moor Street. Here she is doing so...
With the final passengers of the day getting their all important souvenir snapshots, 4965 slips away back into the tunnel with her 8-coach ECS. Its just over 10-minutes run back to Tyseley Loco Works and we arrived home at around 5:45pm. The engine was duly shunt released by the Class 08 before I signalled the diesel back into No1 platform with the ECS in readiness for stabling. The Hall meanwhile was signalled out of 'middle road' before chugging up the running line to access No1 road via the motor points. Soon enough, she was back on shed after a most successful main line day out...
"Days End - Back On Shed"
To see a video of today's outing...click here. It would be very easy for one to get poetic about such outings and turn a good old steam day out into fanciful mush. With this in mind, all I will say is that its a pleasure to be out with Tyseley and to see an engine like 4965 out and about doing what she was always supposed to do. It is particularly poignant as the Hall's were so numerous on the Birmingham districts of the Western region and so this 1929-built stalwart is flying the flag for what once was. I must thank the Tyseley team for their hospitality once again and of course gratefully thank those who have kindly sent in images for use in this post and others. If you wish to travel on the "Shakespeare" at any point this season, its running until September 4th. Click here for more details. With that, a beer is welcome...most, most welcome. Cheers all, Sam...

2 comments:

David Chandler said...

Nice photos and report! Any idea what the Standard Tank next to 4965 in the pictures is doing at Tyseley? I haven't seen it there before, newly arrived for some repairs or overhaul?

Sam Brandist said...

Hi there David. Thanks for reading once again. The Standard was on display at the recent Open Day and is there for contract bottom-end work. Cheers mate, Sam