Sunday, 18 December 2016

"Santa Special"s at Shackerstone - The Beautiful Greyhound...

"A Greyhound at Shenton" (Pic - J.Evans)
Hi all. Today I was rostered aboard the NRM's spectacular T9 Class 4-4-0 No30120 at Shackerstone. The 1899-built LSWR veteran is currently on loan to the Battlefield Line from her Cornish home on the Bodmin & Wenford Railway. Having arisen well before dawn, I arrived at Shackerstone at around 5:45am. I've never liked walking down the drive with all my kit in the pitch darkness. The silence is almost haunting, though there were a couple of talkative Owl's hooting loudly to each other a few fields away! Having signed in, I stumbled down the oh so familiar route to the engine shed before practically falling blurry-eyed through the door. Placing my bits in the real Mess Area it was time to start preparations on and about the engine. The T9 had been spruced up during the week and looked a real picture standing there gleaming away...
Up in the cab I opened the gauge glasses to reveal a healthy 3/4 of a glass of water - good, good. The firehole on the T9 opens inwards on a ratchet, meaning that the firehole door then plays the part of the deflector plate during firing. The door casting is removable via four nuts on studs protruding from the backhead. Looking in the box, it required some paddling. The paddle was used to remove heavy amounts of ash (probably a wheelbarrow full) from the grate. The firebars on the 4-4-0 are in good nick but they are very close together, meaning that larger ashes do not drop through and so paddling them out saves time. It took around 40 minutes to clean the grate, wrestling with both long & short irons to achieve the result. By now I was sweating away under the cap, such is the beauty of standard gauge steam! The firebox was then checked all around and all seemed to be well. The engine still had 10psi remaining on the clock when I lit the fire...
The LSWR T9 Class was introduced in 1899 by Drummond and between then and 1901 there were 66 examples built. With their 6ft 7" wheels and 19" cylinders they were very fast and their lean but muscular appearance earned them the nickname Greyhounds. The 4-4-0s found themselves on express passenger work on the LSWR and 20 of them remained on BR's books in 1959. Urie modified the class upon the death of Drummond to include superheating which further improved their performances. Even under BR, T9's were still being recorded at 80mph or more! All of the class were withdrawn in 1963, with the last example remaining in service being this one - 30120. Saved for the National Collection, 120 now works happily on the steep grades of the Bodmin & Wenford Railway. She is a unique survivor and beautiful in her antique lines.

With a pile of rags blazing away on the grate, I added a variety of wood that I'd managed to acquire during several laps of the shed. The most popular addition is often rotten wood which burns like there is no tomorrow! The grate had had a 1-lump thick covering of coal from front to back but I built the fire up around the back of the box, gradually adding more and more coal to create a burning wedge. This could then be pushed forward at regular intervals until a full fire was achieved. John meanwhile went around the engine oiling her up, though he left the belly of the Greyhound (the big ends etc) to a "youth" like me. I'll have John know I'm 25 next week! Driver Jan had arrived to a lack of a Fireman (and a shovel!) and was duly prepping the industrial "Cumbria" on her own. Myself and John dragged the Austerity over the pit with 30120 before taking her outside into the cool morning air. The time now was around 09:15am...
"A Greyhound Ready To Be Let From The Trap!"
Our first departure of the day was scheduled for 10:00am and so we steamed gently over to Platform 2 road to assume our position at the head of the 5-coach 'Classic' train. The T9 was decked out with a nice headboard, some tinsel and some Southern discs (a little smaller than the original types). The engine then began steam heating the stock as admiring passengers gathered on the platform...
As per last weeks short trip, I made up the fire around the back end of the box. I like to create a wedge where possible, only feeding the front to fill the holes and keep a nice, thin bed on the grate. We left Shackerstone pretty much on time, with the wet rails beneath 30120 providing some slipping and sliding. Once the weight was moving however, the old engine was away. We steamed out under Barton bridge and on into the countryside towards Hedleys Crossing, with the needle nearing the red line...
John shut-off steam for the 10mph slack through Hedley's (I think some track was relayed last Winter) before opening up to get the momentum back towards Carlton. Its downhill here until the engine nears Airport Bridge so you can roll most of the way at a sedate pace. This gives Santa time to see plenty of children before the MB stop...
Down at MB, we got chatting to two GCR lads who'd turned out to photograph the T9. 30120 has yet to visit Britain's only double track railway and so has created interest during its second visit to Shackerstone. She certainly looked the business as she feathered at Bosworth. I'm quite taken with this old gal' now...
Having put a few more round the box prior to an upgrade departure, the steam was nearing the red line again with plenty of water in the boiler. The old T9 certainly gets through some water whilst steam heating at 30psi but its not too hard to maintain with her reliable injectors. Interestingly, the water valves for the injectors are located in the cab floor and you just nudge them with your boot to achieve the correct velocity to force open the clack. Leaving Market Bosworth, I'm captured looking out from the Fireman's side whilst John eases back the gear and opens the regulator further...
"Keeping A Lookout" (Pic - J.Evans)
Steaming out of Bosworth, the T9 continued to hold pressure beautifully and it wasn't long before we were drifting down into Shenton with the view of the Battlefield ahead of us. Our pace continued to be sedate to give Santa a chance and so the GCR lads beat us to the terminus! I uncoupled the Greyhound from the train before we began the run round procedure. There wasn't much time to spare...
"On The NRM Greyhound" (Pic - J.Evans)
The engine was soon on the rear of the train and was awaiting a swift departure. I had already put a few around the box again and covered any holes. The coal was good and hot to fire with but did seem to burn away quickly. Coal quality in recent years has diminished and I would find it most interesting to see how an engine would perform on the proper Welsh steam coal of old. For now however, this stuff will do!...
Myself & John had a lovely run back to Shackerstone. The beats of the T9 are music to the ears; quite square and audible. We arrived back at Shack with steam to spare, though time had been lost during the run. The Austerity "Cumbria" was smoking away in Platform 1, steam heating the late running 11:30am 'Deluxe' train. I had been advised that I would probably have to fire that one too as no Fireman had turned up for the industrial. As we rolled in, it was clear that I would be going out with it. With the T9 secured, I was relieved and duly headed off to the front of the train alongside. Boarding the footplate of "Cumbria" with Driver Jan, I duly made up the fire ready for a most imminent departure. With 120psi on the clock and 1/2 a glass, the Austerity steadily made her way out of Shack with her four coaches steadily following. My eyes were fixed on the pressure but thankfully, once my fresh coal started to take, the needle gently rose despite the steam heat. After a cup of tea during the break at Bosworth we continued southward to Shenton where the engine is captured having run round and coupled back up again...
I did my last turn at Shack on the 1953-built "Cumbria" in September last year and, apart from being a little more work worn, she performs just as well. I've never known an Austerity shout like this one does! She has earned herself the nickname 'Volcano' due to her impressive voice - it must be something in the steam passages. A 4-coach train out of Shenton sounds like an 8F with 40 wagons battling against the Lickey! The boiler was well up and the needle near the red line as we left Shenton on a 'line speed' run back to Shackerstone in order to cross with the elderly T9...
"Leaving Shenton With An Austerity"
We rolled into Shackerstone after a good run with steam to spare and I was quickly relieved again before returning to the T9. JB had thankfully rustled through my bag to cook the breakfast on the shovel during his layover - bacon & sausage cobs...
JB kindly told me to 'take this trip'. The last time I drove the T9 was in 2013 but it all came flooding back as I operated the steam reverser and assumed the full-forward position. With a "Right Away" from the Guard and a pip on the whistle, off we went. To John's bewilderment the big in the wheel 4-4-0 strode away without a slip. "You jammy..." was how the phrase began - he was right! Leaving Shackerstone you could pull the T9 up on the steam reverse to about 40% and she'd walk away with perhaps half of pilot valve. Its a beautiful thing, really lovely. The engine rolled neatly down into Bosworth where there would be the usual pathing stop for a chat and a cuppa' whilst Santa went about his work. The T9 has a Gresham Dreadnought brake ejector which is wonderful in operation. They have a trigger fitted for small vacuum applications and of course both the small and large ejectors. Its a wonderful thing to work - I love them.

Leaving Bosworth, the T9 gave a slip on the crossing before continuing on towards Shenton. She gets the weight moving easily and is a very strong machine. You can feel the power under your hand. The regulator pushes away from you, swinging beneath the quadrant. We ran round at Shenton before buffering up for the return run. I took it steady to MB and then took the engine up to line speed for the final section towards Shackerstone, once I knew that Santa had completed his work. The thing is beautiful. I leaned from the drivers side and listened to the beat of the old engine working away, feeling the power under the handle and gradually easing back the steam reverser. Pulling into Shackerstone was lovely, operating the Dreadnought vacuum brake and stopping exactly where we wanted. What a beautiful old engine - lovely...
"The T9 After My Run Back To Shackerstone With It"
Though I had driven the 1pm train with the T9 rather than fired it, I was still relieved when I saw Martin on the Fireman's side of "Cumbria" ready to go out on the 2:30pm run. Martin had kindly stepped in to do it to give me a break! Having had the public admire the engine for a good while in Platform 1, we took her around onto the front of the waiting 4pm departure as the days light began to fade. JB was enjoying his latest cuppa'...
By the time "Cumbria" returned we were about 15 minutes late (once you lose it on the Santa's you won't get it back!) and so, having lit the lamps, it was time to go...
"Last Train of the Day"
The final run was just as enjoyable as the previous two. The engine steamed freely and was no trouble. By now the light had faded to nothing and the T9 steamed into Market Bosworth for our pathing stop under the cover of darkness. After running round at a very dark Shenton Station, we left with the final train homeward with a good fire in the box and 3/4 of a glass of water. We had a lovely run homeward; the T9 sounded a treat and it was pleasant to see the countryside as it descended into a peaceful Sunday evening slumber. We arrived back at Shackerstone at just gone 6pm and, having uncoupled the engine, had to perform a final shunting move with her before JB drove her neatly back into the shed after a very pleasant day. The old Southern engine soon enveloped herself in a cloud of steam as JB began to fill the boiler to begin the disposal process...
The T9 was finally back on shed after a long but enjoyable day out...
Myself and John then disposed this unique loco. I cleaned the fire through until it was a nice, covering glow and then removed any clinker with the paddle. The boiler was filled until we were satisfied with the level and then all fittings isolated in readiness for stabling. The idea upon disposal is to allow the engine to cool down as slowly and as gently as possible, thus relieving the risk of any overactive contraction or temperature shocks. I must thank JB for a most enjoyable and often humorous day and also thank Joey Evans for sending in three of the images used in this post. Apologies folks for the word-heavy content but there was a lot to say and describe. This engine is an example of physical locomotive beauty - its wonderful, it really is. My thanks to you all for reading - Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Evening all, Sam...

2 comments:

Phil said...

Happy New Year Sam. Great to catch up on your blog. I look forward to reading all of your exploits in 1718.
Phil in NI

Sam Brandist said...

Hi there Phil! Thanks for the comment. Glad you're still reading. Thanks very much :)