Sunday, 4 September 2016

Tyseley: Final "Shakespeare Express" of 2016...

Hi all. Today I've been out and about again aboard Tyseley's well known "Shakespeare Express". I arrived at the Birmingham base of the collection not long after 6:30am and, having changed into my overalls, wandered down through the loco shed to find the rostered engine: No4965: already being prepared for the day. The Hall Class 4-6-0; built at Swindon in 1929; was being oiled up for yet another day on Network Rail metals. The engine has been a confident and reliable performer since returning to steam at Tyseley in 1999 and has operated far and wide hauling countless main line excursions. Having greeted the lads upon my arrival, I was set on with an oil feeder to do the 'top pots' around the Hall. As I clambered up onto the running board, the morning sunshine and blue sky provided a pleasant view...
"A Sunny Morning In The Yard"
With oiling complete, the tender was watered before the Great Western engine steamed down through the yard and onto the middle road for coaling. The roar of the digger soon broke the chorus of morning birdsong as it coaled up the engines tender. With all of the necessaries aboard in readiness for the off, 4965 was dropped down onto the front of the waiting rolling stock. The signal was given in readiness for a prompt departure when "Right Time" came. The final "Shakespeare Express" of 2016 was ready to go...
With the various support crew members, stewards and Pullman staff on board, 4965 departed Tyseley on time with the morning ECS working to Snow Hill. It was a warm, pleasant morning and the beautiful 4-6-0 sounded a treat as she gathered up the weight and strode on towards the city centre. Having barked up through the infamous Snow Hill tunnel, the engine ran round the train as passengers boarded. The wait at Snow Hill (for us) is around 40 minutes or so and the Hall, once coupled on, stands proud at the head of the train awaiting a tender first departure towards Stratford...
"GWR 4965 At Snow Hill Station"
With the "Right Away" from the Guard, 4965 whistled up before departing Snow Hill in a cloud of steam. Following a steady downgrade departure, further passenger stops were made at Moor Street and Tyseley. We then turned onto the North Warwick Line and 4965 got the train well underway. Main line steam rules limit a tender engine to 45mph whilst running tender first, with 4965 registered for 60mph in the forward direction respectively. Following a final passenger pick-up at Henley, the Hall made her merry way towards Shakespeare's birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon. Here, the passengers disembarked in readiness for their afternoon in the town, whilst others boarded 'Train B' back towards Birmingham. 4965 is watered at Stratford and it was my job to attend to the water point as it is on public land. Meanwhile, peering over the fence, the rest of the crew were busy checking the engine and trimming the coal...
"Servicing At Stratford"
With the engine serviced, she was ready for a prompt departure when the time came. Photographer David Chandler was out and about today and kindly sent in two images for use in this post. 4965 is captured approaching Bearley Junction on the return run...
"4965 Nears Bearley Junction" (Pic - D.Chandler)
It is always a great thrill to hear the engine working away. Hall's were nothing short of common on this stretch of railway and indeed on the Western region of the Midlands as a whole. 4965 still regularly makes her mark on territory which once belonged to her once numerous class mates and I think that's quite poignant. Before long the engine was barking hard back up through Snow Hill tunnel once again and she enjoyed a triumphant arrival before a swift run round. Passengers were flocking both on and off the train and 4965 would not have too long to rest before she was off again...
The afternoon run was once again easy for the Hall. She slips through the Warwickshire countryside hardly noticed. We watered and serviced the engine at Stratford once again before a storming run back out and up to Bearley Junction. The engine then steamed along the Claverdon branch before reaching the busier main line section from Hatton North Junction towards Dorridge. Along there, the Hall can head up towards her maximum permitted speed of 60mph, racing along the side of the M40 motorway...
"4965 Near Widney Manor" (Pic - D.Chandler)
All too soon, the Hall was pulling into Snow Hill with the final arrival of the 2016 "Shakespeare" season. Passing Tyseley, a screaming Stanier Hooter was heard on the wind as the Duchess was spotted on the site's turntable following an arrival light engine. 4965 duly whistled a reply before storming away in Great Western fashion...
The Hall ran round once more at Snow Hill before buffering up for a final departure with the returning ECS. Arrival into Tyseley is on middle road with the "Shakespeare" so that the engine may be shunt released by the Class 08 diesel. I took the view below from the window of the signalbox, having just set the road for 4965 to return to the shed after another successful day out...
The engine was duly spotted on the shed road taking a well earned breather...
A final view of No4965 "Rood Ashton Hall" in the pleasant evening sun...
Out in the turntable yard, the Duchess was simmering away. She is of course the mighty pacific No46233 "Duchess of Sutherland". The huge green 4-6-2 had arrived mid-afternoon on a light engine working back home to Butterley. This was just a quick overnight stay as she'd be off tomorrow morning but it was lovely to see her again...
"The Duchess Simmers at Tyseley"
Well folks that's it for the 2016 "Shakespeare Express" but there are still many other tours available to book through Tyseley's operating arm Vintage Trains. You can click here for the website. Thanks must, as always, go to the Tyseley team for a most pleasant and interesting day out as well as of course to Mr Chandler for sending in the images of his that you see in this post. Next weekend?: the final Statfold 'do' of 2016. All the best everyone, keeping steaming, Sam...

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