Saturday, 10 December 2016

Back Where We Started - Return To Shackerstone...

Hi all. This post may well come as a surprise to most readers. Believe me, it has surprised nobody more than myself! Over the past couple of months I've been in talks with Shack about a possible return, helping out here and there in the Steam Department. As I've been quite busy with one thing and another in 2016, the return got pushed back and back and it was today that I finally set foot back on Shackerstone soil for the first time in 15 months. I popped over there today to have a Rules Refresher; a kind of exam where you go through the differences in the rules compared to the ones I did during my previous time there. As well as these questions to do there were also many things to sign in order to become familiar with it all again. Following my reintroduction to the procedures I headed up onto the platform to sign in. JB and Carl were out on the visiting locomotive: another old friend: the National Railway Museum's 4-4-0 T9, or 'Greyhound' as they were called...
It wasn't long before JB kindly invited me aboard his Southern steed and the slender 4-4-0 was then backed down onto the front of the 1pm departure. The Austerity "Cumbria" was down the line on the morning 'Santa Deluxe' train and the T9 was poised for departure as soon as the industrial engine returned. The last time I stood on the Greyhound was Easter 2013 when I had a pretty rough day with it - see post here. It is very fair to say that I had never really forgotten the Greyhound that bit me and I had unfinished business with this old Southern. Footplate crews around the world will know that when you have a bad day with an engine it kicks you mournfully in the pride and you can't wait to rewrite the scores! My chance to do this would come sooner rather than later when Carl kindly offered me the shovel for the 1pm run. I duly accepted and began making a back end up in the box of No30120. Built in 1899, this old engine has been kindly loaned to Shackerstone from its Cornish residence on the Bodmin & Wenford Railway. As we awaited "Cumbria", the T9 was brewing up nicely with steam heat flowing through the train...
"The Backhead Of T9 No30120"
A bright morning had turned into a very damp afternoon and the T9 was soon sitting in the rain awaiting the Austerity. The road ahead is seen through the spectacle...
The industrial engine soon rolled in from Shenton, clanking past the window of the T9. JB had now created a vacuum as the lower quadrant signal that controls departures from Shackerstone's Platform 2 had dropped to "Clear". Departure was imminent and so I added a few more shovelful's to the back end I was creating. JB described it as a "Western Wedge in a Southern Firebox" - he was right. We left Shackerstone slightly down on time, with the 6ft 7" wheels of the T9 struggling for grip on the damp rails. Eventually, JB prevailed and the Greyhound left Shackerstone in a cloud of steam, climbing steadily towards Barton. Once the weight was on the move, 30120 sounded a treat and we were soon steaming out into the fields of Leicestershire. Carl was also on his first day back on the railway and we both remarked how it felt like we'd never been away. We knew this line, we still do, its like riding a bike - you never forget! Even after such a time away you seem to know every leaf of the line as though it were yesterday that you last travelled down it. I suppose that's what comes from doing 5 trips almost every weekend for a few years!

"Santa Special"s at Shack, whether 'Classic' or 'Deluxe', all follow the same running arrangement. The train takes a steady run to Market Bosworth and calls there on a pathing stop, allowing the crew to keep the fire thin for a bit and of course grab the necessary cuppa'. Once the big man in red has seen the majority of the children on board, the Guard gives the "Right Away" for the train to proceed to Shenton. The T9 steamed well throughout the journey down to the fields of Bosworth, hanging around the 160psi mark on the clock. With the steam heat off and with permission from JB, I uncoupled the engine and she duly pulled forward to run round in readiness for a prompt departure...
"Greyhound No30120 Runs Round at Shenton"
Whilst JB ran the engine round I began making up the fire again. The Greyhound was eating the coal away on the forward section of the grate but I noticed that by throwing four across the front and a good one up each side this satisfied the engine and the pressure remained constant. In anticipation of a quicker run back, probably at line speed and non stop through MB, I remade the back end in the T9 before it was time to couple up...
With the engine ready to go we departed Shenton; with the pressure needle hugging the red line; for the run towards Market Bosworth. The T9 steamed gracefully away from Shenton and chugged merrily northwards. Five coaches was no issue...
I'm pleased to say that the Greyhound was lovely to be on today. She steamed well all the way back to Shackerstone, requiring little attention to the fire and being controlled on the dampers and injectors. The unfinished business has now been satisfied and I can honestly say that I'm pleased to have succeeded, if only on one trip, with the Greyhound. The 2013 day we had on it was marred by problems in the morning and though we had the measure of it by the afternoon it didn't feel like a successful day. Today was much nicer and I'm grateful to John and Carl for giving me the opportunity to have a go. Having returned to Shackerstone with the engine in a fair state, I wandered down to the loco shed to see one of my old favourites. Sat at the back of the shed was a forlorn looking "Sir Gomer", covered in dust. As far as I'm aware she hasn't steamed for well over a year and she is now looking fairly sorry for herself. Poor old gal'...
"Peckett & Sons OX1 Class 0-6-0 No1859 'Sir Gomer' of 1932"
A happier Peckett story sits alongside "Gomer": the W7 type 'Dunlop No7'. Long term readers will remember that in my Shack days I started posting overhaul updates on this engine as she hadn't steamed for around 30 years. Its nice to finally report that the engine has now completed its overhaul and has been test steamed in its new blue livery. No7 is from the same Peckett class as Tyseley's No1 and so I know what its like to drive one of these chunky little engines. It was good to see No7 finally finished after a lot of hard work by the guys who own and have restored her. Four years later...
"Peckett & Sons W7 Class 0-4-0"
Having looked at the Peckett pair at the back of the shed, I wandered back up to help JB and Carl with a shunting move in the North End. There would be a special departure tonight, scheduled for 18:30, involving the T9. The 'Classic' set was not required and so was stabled in the North End out of the way. The removal of the coaches (with the 'Deluxe' set still down the line) enabled a shot of the Greyhound simmering away outside an illuminated and festive looking Shackerstone station...
Well guys I had a prior engagement tonight - hence why I wasn't on the Tyseley trip to York today with the immaculate 5043 - so I had to leave Shack at around 5pm to get home. It was kind of strange to be back there but at the same time it felt like I'd never been away. We used to spend so much time there that it became like a second home - as daft as that sounds. I'm booked on the T9 with JB next Sunday so we'll see how we go on. Finally, of course, Merry Christmas. Best Regards, Sam...

5 comments:

David Chandler said...

Hi Sam, I had a quick trip over to Shenton the Saturday just gone to see & photograph the T9 - she looked great in the sunshine! I've put some of the photos like this one on my Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/djcs_trains/31367752570/in/dateposted/
I think this was the 1300 departure from Shack, though it didn't get to Shenton until going on 2, what's the reason for going so slowly? So the passengers get a longer round trip for their money?

After seeing the train arrive I was asked by TWO separate cars for directions to 'Shackerton' station...interesting that they assumed the bloke with a camera must have an excellent command of local geography (though they were sort of right). I know Shack is tucked away down the lanes a bit but surely it's not that hard to find. Hopefully they made it in time, though I'm not confident about the second woman - when I ask her if she came via the A444 she looked blank and said she'd not sure how they'd got there. Maybe it's because I do orienteering & have an interest in geography, but I don't get people who are so clueless on where they're going!

Anyway, do you know if 30120 is staying just for Santa season or longer?
Best regards, David

Sam Brandist said...

Hi there David, good to hear from you. I did notice actually in your pictures that you'd been over to Shack. In all the years I've been going there (10 in January!) there hasn't been a time when people haven't got lost on their way to the Santa's. Most people tend to use either MB or Shenton stations on normal services but the Santa's all start out from Shack and alot have people have been lost and become late over the years.

The slow departure is all about Santa really. We normally go steady to MB, call there for a pathing stop and then continue to Shenton at potentially a reduced speed also, depending on how many are on board. In recent years tickets sales have grown and so each trip seems to take longer, particularly nearer to Xmas.

I believe the T9 is staying until Easter time. She'll be running Dec 29th/30th and NYD as well as some dates near Easter after the closed season.

Cheers David, Merry Christmas

Sam

David Chandler said...

Thanks Sam, I'm not up in the Midlands over the Christmas period as right now I'm back at 'home' with family, I might be around over easter though. Would be good to take a ride on Battlefield line again, looking in my photos last time I travelled on it was 2010 when Mayflower and 5542 were running.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to you and your family!

Anonymous said...

Hi just curious about sir gomer as I helped around the engine on its visit to the epping ongar railway in 2013 but havent seen it since. Whats happened to it.

Sam Brandist said...

Hi there. Yeah I went along to Epping Ongar for its first day in service there before it was ran hot. It did return to service briefly after its axle was turned at Tyseley but it only got used for pilot duties. Its had one or two runs down the line since but that's it. I always like the engine but it is deemed unsuitable for use by those above due to her industrial quirks. Shame, a powerful old girl. Just needs some love. Cheers