Saturday, 22 October 2016

5043: The "Earl" Goes To Chester...

"A Castle on Chirk Viaduct" (Pic - N.Prior)
Hi all. Volunteering on behalf of Tyseley has become an increasingly enjoyable experience and today, during another outing for the fantastic 5043, there was some new ground broken. Records show that the last time a GWR engine covered the route between Chester and Shrewsbury was in 1998 and so, 18 years on, Tyseley's amazing Castle took Great Western steam back to this section of the main line. The "Chester, Wrexham and Shropshire" excursion would leave its base at the former 84E before steaming out of Birmingham via Walsall. The train would then join the busy WCML for the sprint to Crewe via Stafford before arriving for a few hours break in Chester. The route home would take in former GWR territory, climbing Gresford Bank and skirting the Welsh borders before reaching Shrewsbury. From there, the route home would take in Wolverhampton and the very busy Birmingham New Street before arriving home again at Tyseley. I arrived at a dimly lit Tyseley at around 6:30am, enjoying the not to be lived without McDonalds breakfast once parked up. Once changed, I wandered down through the gloom of the engine shed to find 5043 smoking away outside...
Preparations were taking place both on & about the engine and I soon found myself scaling the heights of the tender watching the water level come up. Filling is done from down below using a valve underneath the tender tank...
This time of year is always the same with steam: you start in the dark and finish in the dark! As sad as it is to say it will only get worse too when the clocks go back in a week or so. It'll be getting later earlier! The scheduled departure from Tyseley was 9:15am and the "Earl" was moved across a good hour before to begin steam heating duties...
Well prior to departure I had the opportunity to take a picture on the cab of the ever immaculate 5043 as she stood waiting in the yard. The engine has the typical Great Western cab layout and you can see on the right the drivers additions such as the steam chest pressure gauge and speedometer. You can also see, below the brake valve, the addition of the oil gauge. The GWR engines have a 'W' valve fitted to the regulator and, when shut-off, the regulator should remain cracked open to allow steam flow via the 'W' valve to keep the cylinders fed with oil. On the hydrostatic arrangement the bubbles of oil will cease to flow up the glass without the valve cracked but with the modified Castle's and King's you have a mechanical lubricator with the 'W' valve feeding steam to the atomizers. When the regulator is shut for coasting purposes it should be reopened until the needle on the oil gauge shows in the white "OIL" section. I believe "Clun" has the same arrangement but the single chimney "Defiant" for example still retains the original hydrostatic arrangement. I find the various small differences quite interesting; a bore as I may be...
By the time departure time came around we were settled in the Support Coach ready for the off. A number of passengers had joined at Tyseley's own Warwick Road platform with a further pick-up due at Wolverhampton. The Castle was in good voice as she left the centre of Birmingham and steamed off towards Chester via the Sutton Park line...
"5043 Leaves Birmingham Behind" (Pic - G.Gifford)
We enjoyed a great run to Chester with lots of fast running. The morning had started fairly dull but towards dinner time the sun began to edge its way out from behind the clouds. Meanwhile, the energetic Castle was sprinting northwards as we enjoyed a variety of chocolate and sweets from the comfort of the Support Coach...
"5043 Near Bunbury, Cheshire" (Pic - Midcheshireman of Flickr)
We arrived at Chester a few minutes early and the mass of passengers disembarked with haste in order to admire the engine. 5043 would soon propel the train back out of Platform 3 and pull into some sidings over the way for servicing...
Whilst the lads did their usual jobs servicing the engine during the Chester stop, I remained on board the train. I'm going for my PTS soon so I'll be able to help out once I've received the safety training. Phil and Stu trotted off into Chester and returned brandishing two bags full of fish and chips which were most pleasant...
Departure from Chester was scheduled for 4:38pm and so the 1936-built Castle would have to be back over there a few minutes before for loading. We steamed triumphantly back into Platform 3 under the watchful gaze of the admiring crowds. I dashed from the Support Coach along the platform in order to grab this snap of 5043 preparing for departure homeward, with the delights of Gresford ahead of her...
I must say I am very grateful to the various photographers who have kindly sent in images for use in this post. There are some truly spectacular pictures of the Castle from today and I can honestly say they actually humiliate my own very limited photography skills! We left Chester on time and the Castle soon had the weight moving well. You don't see a lot of sights from railway sidings and so it was very nice to see the pretty parts of Chester as we steamed out past the racecourse...
"Leaving Chester Behind" (Pic - Midcheshireman of Flickr)
The climb of Gresford was absolutely fantastic and, though the stiff climb got hold of the "Earl", she seemed to fly over the top. There is a video of her efforts here. The GWR route between Chester and Shrewsbury has its roots in 1846 as the Shrewsbury and Chester Railway. As competition grew from the rival LNWR, the line became part of the Great Western Railway in 1854 and remained a Western region line under BR until 1963 when it became part of the London Midland region. This was my first time travelling over this route and I tell you what, its quite spectacular. There are some wonderful views and some cracking pieces of railway infrastructure. The viaducts in particular are nothing short of impressive, as you can see...
"On Cefn Viaduct" (Pic - D.Chandler)
The "Earl" was in fantastic voice as she strode along the picturesque route. Interestingly, all but one of the intermediate stations on the route are situated in Wales, with only Gobowen being on the English side of the border. Its a brilliant route and it was very poignant to listen to a Great Western engine pounding away on GWR metals once again. Passing Ruabon, you can see traces of the old Barmouth line which ran via Llangollen, Bala and Dolgellau. This was sadly closed under the Beeching Axe in 1965 although both the Llangollen Railway and the Bala Lake Railway use sections of the track bed today. Soon enough, we arrived at Shrewsbury, running slightly early. Again, I dashed out to grab a shot of 5043...
The Castle still looked immaculate as she simmered away at Shrewsbury...
Leaving Shrewsbury we passed the ever impressive Severn Bridge Junction Signalbox. This is the largest mechanical box still in operation in the world, housing 180 levers on the main operational floor. With so many mechanical boxes closing, it is comforting to know that Severn Bridge Jnc is still going strong. From Shrewsbury the Castle steamed on into the dim light of the evening. She just runs for mile after mile, so free. The machine is a credit to the team that restored her...
"5043 Under The Lights & Wires Of Wolverhampton" (Pic - C.Skidmore)
Wolverhampton was left in darkness as the engine climbed through the suburbs of Birmingham to reach New Street. There were countless astonished faces on the platforms there! Leaving New Street behind, the engine was soon back home at Tyseley after a memorable day...
At this point we performed the traditional shunt release with the trusty 08' diesel. Once the Castle was released, I enjoyed a footplate ride through the Tyseley yard to reach the turntable. The 4-6-0 would be turned before disposal...
A final look inside the firebox of No5043 "Earl of Mount Edgcumbe"...
Once turned, 5043 returned to the shed and settled down in front of shed mate 4965 "Rood Ashton Hall". It had been another very enjoyable day with the Tyseley lads and I must thank them for their continued hospitality. Its amazing and very engaging to listen to these mighty engines roaring away in their home setting - the main line. The "Earl" in particular is like a volcano, with four 16" cylinders firing an awe inspiring exhaust up a double chimney. There are plenty more Vintage Trains outings coming up, which you can peruse by clicking here. I must also thank once again the photographers who kindly sent in images for use in this post - it is much appreciated. These posts would be boring without the addition of the lineside shots! Thanks for reading all, Sam...
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are merely my own and do not by any means represent the views of the company or any other organisation. Many thanks.

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