Sunday, 29 January 2017

Evesham Vale: A "Monty" Fine Day...

Hi everyone. Today I was rostered to drive at the 15" gauge Evesham Vale Light Railway - my first turn in Worcestershire for 2017. I rose this morning to murky conditions; rain and fog in a stifling abundance. My drive along the A46 towards Evesham was pretty good considering and I arrived at the EVLR base of Twyford Station not long after 8am. The traditional McDonalds breakfast was then enjoyed: can't do without it...
Stepping into the Mess Room I found the appropriate keys before walking into the engine shed to find the loco for the day: "Monty". I was quite relieved to have the red 0-4-2 over "St Egwin" as the forecast for the remainder of the day was anything but promising. With the shed door opened, I pushed No300 out into the damp morning air. Still warm from yesterdays efforts, it wouldn't take long to get "Monty" up to pressure. I cleaned the grate and checked the tubes and fusible plug. The smokebox was also checked: bone dry as normal. With 1/3 of a glass of water in the boiler all was well in readiness for lighting up. Some paraffin soaked rags were then employed to do the honours...
The draw from the warm chimney soon turned the rags into a blaze...
With the rags burning away on the grate, I added a selection of wood from the nearby bucket. The telling crackling then began and a lethargic trail of smoke rose steadily skyward from the chimney. The coal in the bunker was the usual open cast stuff from Ffos y fran and so I employed my usual method of blacking out the orange flames with a level covering. The artificial draft was provided by the trusty airline and the fire was then left to get on with it. It was then time to set to with the cleaning implements: Peek for the brasses, Pledge for the paintwork. The oiling/greasing process on "Monty" takes next to no time at all. She only has a couple of oiling points for the motion oil, plus a mechanical lubricator to feed the cylinders. The greasing is a quick job undertaken with ease. The hard labour that is often experienced with standard gauge machines is not missed on 15" gauge. The atmosphere on shed is fairly stress-free...
With a cleaned, polished and oiled engine ready to go, it was time to take "Monty" off shed. The former "Markeaton Lady" moved gingerly from her shed road, expelling varying amounts of condensate from the drain cocks. Leaving shed as cautiously as possible gives the engine a chance to get rid of some of that potentially harmful water whilst also protecting your cleaning efforts from a cough of mess from the chimney! The engine was taken steadily to the mouth of the yard where the usual blow-down procedure was undertaken. Though the boilers run on treated water, this daily blow-down helps release any deposits left by the water during evaporation. The valve is situated on the throat plate and its opening lets rip a violent roar of steam...
"Off Shed With Exmoor No300"
With the blow-down complete, "Monty" was backed onto the waiting 10:30am train. With 15 minutes to go, I opted to have another cuppa'. It didn't look like the first trip would run but some passengers turned up last minute. We steamed out into the calm of Evesham Country Park with "Monty" throwing white steam over her shoulder. The load was a modest three coaches and No300 took them easily around the circuit. The 11am trip was a little more well loaded and is seen here at Evesham Vale...
Departing Evesham Vale in a cloud of steam, we were homeward bound...
"The Road Ahead"
Days at Evesham tend to go on much the same: pleasant and calm. The passengers are mostly young families though you do see an enthusiast or two from time to time. By the time the 12:30pm trip rolled around I had opted to light the lamp as the weather was coming in darker all the time. The rain became constant though it wasn't heavy enough to be a real bother. "Monty" was steaming fine...
It was a steady day for the EVLR. The post-Christmas winter months are never the most prosperous for the steam railway sector and a fluttering of passengers, particularly on a damp day like today, is all you can really expect. Prior to our departure with the 13:30 trip it was time to enjoy my lunch by the fire-side. One thing you are very rarely short of on "Monty" is warmth - a good engine for today... 
The attractive headlamp was burning brightly as the rain continued to fall...
I was having a very pleasant, if quiet, day on the former "Markeaton Lady". The engine steamed well and pulled well as normal. Its an effortless machine. As long as you keep the fire light and bright she'll steam like no tomorrow and you can't help but want to put three or four more coaches behind her. She's a very nice engine to be on...
"A Desolate Play Fort With 'Monty' On The 14:00 Trip"
Returning to Twyford ready for the 14:30 train, Mike the Guard spun us on the turntable. Passengers often gather to watch us spin...
The photographs don't really do justice to how dark it was. The light seems to fill the camera but in reality it was quite a dark day. "Monty" was still going well as we awaited departure with the return run of the 14:30 from Evesham Vale...
Back at Twyford the traditional EVLR 'Tea & Cake' was delivered to the engine: a vital uplift during a wet day like this: "Yum"...
Due to lack of interest the 15:00 train didn't run. In reality we enjoyed our nice hot cuppa' and our cake in the cosy covering of the booking office. It was decided that "Monty" would run one more trip and then the diesel engine "Cromwell" would be summoned to work the last train of the day, allowing the 0-4-2 to go on shed for disposal. The arrival of some passengers saw us preparing for the off and we soon departed with a 15:20 departure. "Monty" had a light fire ready for her final run...
"Once More Unto The Breach, Dear Friends, Once More"
The object of the last run of any day on steam is to run the fire down and prepare the engine for disposal as much as you can. There is little sense in pulling back on shed with a whopping great fire, pressure on the red line and boiler filled to the whistle. Naturally you can't run with no fire at all but the lesser the better as long as you keep the welfare of the firebox and tubes in mind. Too much cold air through a fire bed that is too thin will result in a chill. By the time we arrived at Evesham Vale "Monty" had 130psi on the clock and 1/2 a glass of water on a thin but bright fire - just what we want...
The exposed nature of the boiler tubes can be seen in the firebox...
Trotting casually over the hill back to Twyford with the final train of the day, "Monty" coasted easily down towards the station. We turned her once more on the turntable and she was then watered on the column whilst "Cromwell" meandered out of the yard. The diesel backed down onto the 3-coach train whilst I prepared to take "Monty" on shed. This pair were once a common feature at Markeaton and both are now reunited at Evesham. I believe the Markeaton Park Light Railway was closed and pulled up at the back end of last year and is now just a memory. Happily, the engines live on...
"Markeaton Engines Reunited at Evesham"
Steaming back from the yard mouth through the groaning point work, "Monty" was stopped outside her shed whilst the tail disc of the 16:00 train - hauled by "Cromwell" - slipped into the distance. It was then time to dispose...
The fire was cleaned and deadened, the ashpan was emptied and the boiler filled before I backed "Monty" into the shed on her remaining breaths of steam. The engine was then dried and polished, as is the EVLR practise of keeping things nice. "Cromwell" soon returned and marshalled the stock for stabling until next weekends services. It had been a pleasant day once again at the EVLR and I must thank Adrian & Sandra for their continued hospitality. I always have a nice day there. Cheers all, Sam...

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