Thursday, 29 December 2016

A Frosty Greyhound Day - Shackerstone's Mince Pie Specials...

"T9 Departing Market Bosworth" (Pic - A.Weaver)
Hi all. Today I was rostered aboard the NRM's T9 4-4-0 once again, this time with former footplate companion David. It was a very pleasant day all told and in this word-heavy post you'll come to learn about most of the goings on. I awoke from my short slumber this morning at around 5am, dragging myself down the stairs with the knowledge of a thick frost outside. Once in the car there was the now traditional McDonalds stop before continuing through the wintry landscape towards Shackerstone. The temperature was in the minus' this morning and as I crept down the Fen Lane's there was an eerie layer of fog drifting lethargically across the tops of the frozen hedgerows. Through the fog came the sight of the Gibbet post, erected in 1801. That year, local man John Massey was convicted of murdering his wife and was hung before his body was displayed for 18 years at the site. To this day the name of the road keeps this story alive. Arriving at the foggy gates of Shackerstone Station, I waited in the car for a while due to the extremely cold weather outside. David soon arrived and we headed up the dark driveway in convoy. After unloading the cars, signing in and stumbling blurry-eyed down to the shed, the telling warmth emanating from our elderly steed was a welcome relief. 

Up in the cab, the T9 was showing 2/3 of a glass of water, 20psi on the clock and a clean grate; save for the last embers of last night's warming fire glowing around the back corners. After throwing a good covering of coal across the firebars and having carried out all of the necessary checks, satisfying myself that the boiler was safe to light, I broke up some pallet wood before lighting the fire. The warmth at the chimney immediately provided a good draw and the paraffin-soaked rags were soon blazing away...
After throwing the lit rags into the firebox at the back of the grate, more wood was added to provide a 'camp fire' effect. The old phrase "you've got to have something to bite on" is always a factor here. The wood is often stacked at angles, allowing the all important air flow to circulate around it and for the flames to take hold. Once you have a good heat coming from your wood fire, you can add the coal and then allow the engine to get on with it. During preparation, unless something has gone wrong, there is often time to bring the fire up slowly, spreading it at regular intervals until a full fire is achieved. The slower you can bring the engine round the better it is for her, though time is also at the back of the mind. Whilst I tended to the fire, David was busying himself around the old engine with his oil cans. The T9 carries the typical Stephenson's valve gear with pretty much everything on the inside. With the fire crackling away, the engine started to sing...
It was very cold this morning (the car had read -5 on the way up) and with this in mind I decided to light the rarest of fires - the water tower brazier. I've only seen this lit a handful of times but with the thick frost in mind I decided to light it up to save any issues later on. Jason soon arrived and we began a big shunting operation with the 04 class diesel shunter providing the motive power. I worked the signalbox whilst Jason scurried about the yard on the diesel, shifting frozen coaches and wagons. Even with the signalbox stove lit the windows were still frosted shut! The shunting was complete at just before 10am and so I returned to David and the T9. Luckily the signalbox is close enough to the shed to make regular checks. Whilst David stowed his oil cans, I backed the T9 out of the shed. Condensation from the drain cocks filled the air as the ageing 4-4-0 backed gracefully outside. Moving a 'cold' engine for the first time is often done on their terms. The regulator is opened carefully, until you feel the steam flowing through. Initially you may not see any sign of it or feel the engine move. This slow motion allows steam to gently fill the steam circuit, helping any condensed water on its way. She will soon start hissing away until the pressure being mounted forces out the majority of the water. She may need pushing a little more but being as gentle as possible to get her on the move often gets results. There is no sense in hurrying these initial moves. Once secured, we gave her a clean...
The 1899-built LSWR 4-4-0 looked a picture on this frosty Winter morning...
With the ground frame (No11) open and permission from the Signalman, I took the engine down through Platform 1 for coaling at the North End. Jason kindly did the honours with the JCB, once he had managed to persuade it to start. The machinery in the North End was happily hibernating and only the T9 looked ready for action...
"The Greyhound Simmers In The North End"
By the time coaling was complete we had 3/4 of a glass of water, 160psi on the clock and a light, bright fire. The sun was even starting to shine as the clouds cleared to reveal a beautiful blue sky. I then took the T9 over onto the water column, which was now a little warmer having had the fire lit under it. With the large water-cart tender now full, I backed the engine down onto the waiting 4-coach train. A liberal helping of steam heat was definitely required as the windows of the coaches were frosted up on the inside! With the engine safely on the train and heating, the first vacuum test of the day was performed. Using the ejector, the brakes are pulled up to the usual working value of 21 inches and the Guard will use the dropper in the van to prove continuity. We then awaited the "Right Away" with our now slightly late 11am departure...
"At The Drivers Window" (Pic - M.Tattam)
David asked if I would like to take the first trip - I was quite happy to. With the green flag and a whistle received, the T9 pulled gingerly forward. Caution is required with this old gal' to get her on the move. Four coaches is hardly an issue for her, but 6ft 7" wheels attached to 19" cylinders certainly gives you some power - and quickly! Once through the slack up to Barton Bridge, I gave the T9 a bit more as the wet at the chimney (common on a cold engine) began to clear. You can hear the change in the exhaust; it will sound less duff (for want of a better word) as the engine warms up. Heading out towards Congerstone I pulled the steam reverser up and pushed the regulator across. This old engine is a beautiful thing. The power is there, the noise is there, the steam is (a lot of the time!) there - its lovely. David had the old 4-4-0 singing to him as we strode out towards Hedley's. Driving the thing is brilliant - a joy. As I looked out forwards from the Drivers side I could feel the thing walking away and as I looked across the fields she threw her white exhaust into the crisp Winter sky. After a short pause at Market Bosworth, we carried on...
"Leaving Bosworth With The First Train" (Pic - A.Weaver)
Dropping down towards the site of Richard III's 1485 defeat by Henry Tudor, the T9 was simmering nicely. Having run round the train and coupled back on, we had a pleasant run northward. The T9 was doing exactly what we wanted. It was nice also to see the Collyer clan out and about photographing at Hedley's as we scurried steadily through the slack. We were late coming into Shack and so it was pretty much time for the 12:30 departure once we'd managed to get the engine round again...
David was on the handle for the 12:30 run and took us easily out of Shackerstone. I meanwhile was busy with the fire. I find that the T9 responds well to a strong back-end but doesn't tend to eat that away anywhere near as much as the front. The forward section of the grate, particularly near the front tubeplate, certainly likes its coal and as long as you keep that covered you've got steam to spare all day long. Naturally the Midland metals of the Battlefield Line can hardly be classed as steep and four coaches on this 19" Southern veteran could hardly be classed as heavy but steam is steam! After a nice run, it wasn't long before we were dropping down towards Shenton Lane bridge...
David is seen here applying the vacuum brake as we approach a speed restriction at Ambion Lane bridge. This Dreadnought ejector is beautiful to work - one of the best ejectors that steam engines carried in my opinion...
As we pulled into a sunlit Shenton we were photographed once again...
"30120 Arrives at Shenton" (Pic - M.Tattam)
Its amazing just how many people have come out for the T9. Her usual residence in Cornwall has made a lot of local folk pay her a visit during her foray to the Midlands. Once uncoupled, we ran the T9 round and back onto the rear of the train...
"Awaiting Departure With The 13:05 Ex-Shenton"
The returning second trip was very pleasant. We steamed through the wintry countryside, enjoying the sight and sound of our steed beneath our feet. Strolling through the Leicestershire fields on this Drummond beauty is very nice. The engine steamed well during our return to Shackerstone, where we arrived with a little time to spare before our 2pm departure southward. I finally managed to grab a cuppa' this trip (I was getting withdrawals!) before returning to the footplate to make up the fire. Soon enough we were sailing through the leafless trees towards Carlton once more...
Driver's often shut-off steam just after Airport Bridge and David is seen here adjusting the steam reverser having closed the regulator. Being a large slide valve engine, the drift position (for coasting) is full gear (75% cut-off if you will). When the steam supply is removed from the chest, the valves will often fall away from the faces slightly. Running in the full gear position with steam off lengthens the life of the valves and they won't rattle around so much - its good practise. Piston valve engines often drift at between 25% and 40% cut-off, depending on the machine and a lot of the time the owners instructions. The steam reverser on 30120 is lovely to use...
We soon arrived once again at a frosty Shenton Station. Passengers were creeping cautiously across the slippery boarded crossing, often clinging to each other for support. Its always humorous to see people so wrapped up on these cold days - myself & David were baking whilst caring for the needs of the Greyhound...
"A T9 At Shenton" (Pic - A.Williamson)
The third run round at Shenton seemed fairly quick and busy and so I didn't get chance to make the fire up until a few moments before departure. Normally I like to have the bed burning well by then, saving any unnecessary smoke gliding skyward from the chimney. However, as we pulled tender first out of the platform and up the bank I noticed a photographer over the way. I remember remarking to David that "he'll get a good shot with that exhaust"...I was right of course...
"A Thick Exhaust" (Pic - G.Nuttall)
I quite like that shot, captured as I look back at the exhaust bellowing from the chimney. The engine eased up the bank with the pressure needle around the 150psi mark as the old T9 got to grips with the fresh coal. However, nearing Bosworth we were back up on the red line and ready for the final section back to Shack...
Steaming through Hedley's the shadow of the Greyhound was captured...
David then whistled up for the second crossing where the farm track meets us...
There is currently a 10mph speed restriction here as some recently renewed track is being allowed to settle prior to tamping. The T9 would then accelerate away...
During the final layover at Shackerstone we were finally back ahead of time and the T9 enjoyed a quick break at the north end of Platform 1...
"The NRM's 1899-Built LSWR T9 4-4-0 No30120" (Pic - A.Williamson)
The last trip of the day prepared for departure in the last of the days sunlight. We could not have asked for a better day in terms of weather. The sun was shining, the air was crisp and the sky was blue - a far cry from the rain of the other week! As the light faded it was time to light the paraffin wicks in the lamps. Midland lamps aren't really at home on a Southern engine but they seem to fit the engines appearance quite well...
I was driving for the final train, whilst David did the firing. We left Shackerstone with the drains roaring away, expelling the condensate from the steam chests. I had been asked by a chap at Shackerstone to try to create some kind of exhaust on the downgrade section into Shenton. I did wonder how to do this as the T9 would simply race away on the downhill stretch but in the end, by rolling in slowly, a quick application of the large ejector provided the necessary steam trail. The resulting image is below. I think its a great shot. David can just be seen in the gap between engine and tender...
"Glow Of A Greyhound" (Pic - G.Nuttall)
After a final run round at Shenton we coupled the engine back onto the stock. I threw a few rounds in the box for David whilst the Guard made his final checks...
"The Fire Glows As The T9 Prepares For Departure"
Leaving Shenton on the last train of the day the T9 made her voice known as she chuffed into the evening dew. I've always believed the Battlefield Line to be a pretty route, particularly on the Shenton Bank and Hedley's sections. In the fading light of this winters day, the farm cottages and green fields were decorated with a glistening covering of frost, brought into colour by the last rays of sun. It was a very nice last trip. Arriving back at Shackerstone we swiftly uncoupled the engine before I drove her back up into the shed. Pulling up nicely over the pit, the engine was screwed down and scotched. The disposal procedure then began - deaden the fire, fill the boiler, isolate everything etc. With that another day on the footplate was complete and what a pleasant experience. I must thank David for a very nice day and thank you all for reading once again. Finally I must thank the various photographers who have sent in images for use in this post - thank you. The T9 is a beautiful thing, a masterpiece of Drummond engineering. Naturally it does have its quirks and it has done a fair amount of work but all in all its a sumptuous piece of equipment and a joy to drive and fire. Lovely. All the best, Sam...

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