Saturday, 1 October 2016

Evesham Vale: The Rain Falls for "Dougal"...

Hi all. This morning I was rostered to drive at the 15" gauge Evesham Vale Light Railway in Worcestershire. The hour-long drive along the A46 saw me arrive at the railway's base of Twyford Station at just after 8am. Naturally the traditional McDonalds breakfast was enjoyed after parking up, whilst looking out at the fairly bleak Autumn weather. EVLR owners Adrian & Sandra soon arrived and, after greeting them, we continued into the Mess Room to sign on. The locomotive for today's services was to be the 1970-built Severn Lamb 0-6-2 No3 "Dougal" and I was most pleased about this, having not been rostered for this engine as yet. When the clock turned 08:30 the heavens had opened and the rain was starting to fall. It soon became heavier and so we decided to steam up indoors with the chimney just poking out. With all of the necessary checks made the rags were lit on the shovel, providing a gentle warming glow...
"Lighting Up at Evesham"
"Dougal" was lit up in the usual way: lit rags with wood on top followed by coal with an accompanying draft provided by the airline blower. The air pressure is set just so the smoke is pulled from the firehole door and the 0-6-2 was soon crackling away to herself at the shed door. The weather outside was now pretty foul and I wasn't holding out much hope for later on when we were out & about...
"Severn Lamb 0-6-2 No3 'Dougal' of 1970"
During the morning prep at Evesham you go around the engine with the cleaning implements: Peek for the Brasses, Pledge for the Paintwork: before oiling up prior to leaving shed. "Dougal" was spruced up indoors before being rolled outside for oiling alongside the resident Lister, known as "Sludge"...
No3 carries Baker valve gear and has a few more motion oil points than her EVLR shed mates, both of which boast Exmoor's low maintenance pedigree. Built in 1970 by the locally based firm of Severn Lamb, "Dougal" spent most of her life at Longleat Safari Park. She was a different engine then, having no tender and carrying a much smaller boiler. When she arrived at Evesham she was in her old form but they still got her to do the job. Modified by the builders of the railway and given a new boiler, the engine has been transformed with much more capacity in all areas. Having topped up the mechanical lubricator with cylinder oil, I was almost ready to come off shed. With drain cocks hissing loudly and condensate filling the damp morning air, No3 moved gently through the groaning point work and out to the mouth of the yard. With the road set and boiler blown down 1/3 of a glass, I backed down onto the waiting stock which was still nice and dry under the station roof...
"No3 'Dougal' Waits In The Rain at Twyford"
The first departure, as usual, was scheduled for 10:30am and No3 was feathering at the valves ready for the off. I thought we might miss the first due to no passengers but, despite the weather, a few did turn out for the trip. It was drizzling at this point and I was glad of the waterproof coat over several layers of overalls. The "Right Away" came on time and No3 was soon steaming out of Twyford and onto the single line. After a pleasant first trip with "Dougal" surprising me with both her steaming and haulage abilities, we arrived back at Twyford ready to run round. She is seen here on the 11am trip at Evesham Vale...
By now the fire was burning brightly and I was having to make efforts to keep the engine from blowing off at every opportunity...
For the next couple of trips things went on just like that: the rain fell from the dreary skies whilst "Dougal" steamed around the fields of Evesham Country Park throwing white steam over her shoulder. This damp weather certainly creates some brilliant steam effects, with the condensate drifting lethargically across the sodden landscapes. Despite the rain, it was most pleasant to be out with "Dougal" today. Its a lovely engine: it steams well, rides well and runs well. The gravity sanding gear was very much in use today, especially on the climb out of Evesham Vale across the trailing points!...
It rained and rained until the 1:30pm trip, when the downpours finally relented (briefly). The 2pm train allowed me to grab some very nice shots of the 0-6-2 in the sunlight at Twyford. I hadn't expected any sun at all today as the dismal start had offered little to no hope. Passenger numbers seemed fair considering...
"Sun and 'Dougal' at Twyford"
After a very pleasant run across the wet fields towards Evesham Vale, I stopped in the platform to admire the backhead. "Dougal" is a very workable engine and has all of the usual bits & pieces as well as the pleasant addition of sanding and steam operated drain cocks. All in all, its a very nice office to work in for a day...
Leaving Evesham Vale, the engine is in fine voice as she attacks the climb homeward. We only had three coaches on the drawbar today but I think four would be good, clean fun...
"Road Ahead On 'Dougal' Heading Homeward"
The 2:30pm train went out in what I can only describe as "should have taken a coat" conditions. I should have known that the moment I took my waterproof coat off it would rain...I seem to have luck that would make Frank Spencer look accident free! During the layover at Evesham Vale, the clouds were descending and whilst the passengers chatted to the Guard I couldn't help worrying about what would come next...
Sure enough, just as I was about to get the "Right Away" towards Twyford, the heavens opened! There was everything: all kinds of rain and even some hail! The passengers scurried aboard for the sanctuary of the coaches and the Guard gave his flag before duly retiring into the dry. No such luck for myself. "Dougal" made a more than spirited departure from Evesham Vale before storming upgrade with me doing my best to shield myself behind the small spectacle plate. Arrival at Twyford under the cover of the station roof was just joyous and the 0-6-2 rested for a while, no doubt glad to be out of the rain. With gritted teeth I ran "Dougal" onto the turntable and we were turned before taking shelter again on Platform 2 road. The engine sat at the end of the roof covering, simmering away in the dry. The rain did come bad - very bad - my picture doesn't really do it justice...
Whilst the torrents of rain came down, the 3pm departure looked quite empty indeed and so the traditional Evesham Tea & Cake (a much looked forward to addition to the day!) was enjoyed under the station roof, having been delivered to the footplate...
Alas, the rain did subside slightly and so, clad once again in my waterproof, I went out with the 3pm working. Needless to say, the reduction in rain quantity lasted a matter of moments and as soon as "Dougal"s leading wheel-set entered section it came pouring down again! I was soaked beyond all belief. The backhead looked like a giant sauna with water evaporating left, right and centre. I was continually battered by rain and the peek of my cap echoed memories of leaking guttering as the water streamed down. Visibility was manageable but only just. The mild relief of the tunnel was short-lived and I wondered whether to stop inside and refuse to move...like "Henry" did in Thomas The Tank! Leaving Evesham Vale on the climb to Twyford, the rain was now bashing down hard and arrival at Twyford heralded a brief moment of dryness. The footplate was full of water, my boots were full of water, my cap was full of water - it was quite wet. As the old saying goes "you can't get any wetter than wet" it was decided to keep the steam on until the end of the day and so "Dougal" enjoyed another hideously damp trip at 3:30pm. However, as some kind of sick joke, the weather cleared to reveal sunshine for the last train of the day...
There was even a rainbow at Evesham Vale to greet the drying "Dougal"...
"Evesham Vale - 'Dougal' and The Rainbow"
Returning to Twyford with the final working of the day, it was still very damp but the weather had cleared enough to allow a pleasant run. I certainly wasn't going to dry out anytime soon but it had still been a most enjoyable day. "Dougal" is a lovely machine and a credit to the railway and her owner. Many people involved with steam will know of the pleasure of getting an engine set up just right and letting it just march along in a carefree manner..."Dougal" was master of this. What a lovely little engine. Having been turned on the table one last time, I returned the 0-6-2 to the shed frontage after traversing the creaky points. Now came the disposal tasks: deaden the fire, empty the ashpan, fill the boiler and clean off the mess. The ashpan was certainly a pro at making the dust fly...
Apparently the pan is a David Curwen design. I must admit, it is very effective at getting the ash in the prepared ash pit. It is also very effective at getting the ash all over the wheel-sets, motion, ballast and driver! An ashpan wash would have helped no end...
With all of her disposal tasks complete and the paint buffed up ready for bed, I backed "Dougal" into the shed on her final breaths of steam. The engine looked quite a picture as she stood shining in the doorway with the chimney cap now on...
Well, that's it for another outing folks! It had been another very pleasant day at the EVLR and I must thank Adrian & Sandra for their continued hospitality. There isn't a single bad engine at Evesham but "Dougal" in particular is quite special. There is something about an older engine, even if she is still younger than 50. What a nice old thing. All the best, Sam...

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