Saturday, 4 March 2017

The Castle Is Back - 5043's First Run In 2017...

"A Castle In The Night" (Pic - C.Baker)
Hi all. After two 'train free' weekends, today heralded a welcome return to Tyseley Loco Works. Its been a busy few weeks. As some of you may know we moved house just before Christmas and so the short winter evenings have brought with them an attack on the decorating. The last two weeks have seen the plasterer going about his merry work and I am happy to report that the downstairs of the house is now a dank, dark wilderness inhabited only by the odd power tool and a few items of junk mail. We are now heading into a good week of drying time in preparation for the next step of this DIY onslaught. Heading out today at the fairly pleasant time of 10am, I found my way over to the former 84E and included the traditional breakfast stop on route. This time it was the Tyseley Corner Cafe that provided the get up & go for the days tasks...
At the front of the shed on the running road stood an immaculate 5043. The Castle Class 4-6-0 would haul her first railtour of the year this evening, taking a circular route around the East Midlands. Departure time was scheduled for 5:55pm and so we would spend the afternoon around the shed doing odd jobs and generally making ready the train. 5043 had another little jaunt to go on first: a test run to Whitlocks End, planned for not long after lunch. Cleaned and polished, the Castle stood proudly awaiting the off. The tail-lamp was fitted as the 4-6-0 would run tender first on the outward leg of the test trip...
The engine is seen here through the cab window of the Class 08 diesel which was ticking over nearby ready to perform some shunting moves with the ECS...
At right time, the engine steamed triumphantly out of Tyseley light engine and headed off into the distance down the North Warwick line. Running tender first, the copper-capped beauty soon disappeared out of sight. The Support Crew meanwhile busied themselves with little jobs around the works: emptying pits, fixing one of the diesels and shunting the coaching stock. Soon enough, the Castle was back from her successful test trip and was simmering away at the head of the waiting stock. Driver Andy Taylor, of Rugby, would be on the handle for tonight's excursion...
It seemed a long day awaiting the off with the trip. Most excursions tend to start either early or ridiculously early and so the teatime departure was a bit out of character. The trip had initially been planned for the Saturday after Valentines but was rescheduled to today. The original intention of this evening main line saunter then gave the trip the name "The Belated Valentines Express". Right on time, 5043 steamed out of Tyseley with 7 + the GUV (water carrier) behind her Hawksworth tender. The engine accelerated away from a darkening Birmingham and up towards Nuneaton, after a passenger pick-up stop at Coleshill. She strode easily through a quiet Platform 7 at Nuneaton before storming through Hinckley and on towards Leicester. She was certainly blowing the cobwebs away! Passing slowly through Leicester, the typical Saturday evening revellers couldn't seem to believe their eyes. Their tanked up expressions were ones of shock as 5043 drifted through, breaking normality on this blustery winter evening. There was then a short servicing stop at Humberstone Road before continuing on our circular route. The Castle rushed through Loughborough, Castle Donnington and Burton-upon-Trent before setting down passengers at Coleshill once more.

The final leg of the run back to Tyseley was most audible, with 5043 letting her double-chimney tell onlookers she was there. Finally, after drifting through a desolate Small Heath station, we rolled back into the yard of the former 84E at 10:15pm. The "Earl" came to rest in the Warwick Road platform and the passengers soon alighted after a pleasant evening out. The engine had performed faultlessly and sounded a treat. I then recorded my typical "we've just got back" gricer shot...
Arrival back at Tyseley signals the beginning of a familiar routine: the engine has to be shunt released, turned on the turntable and returned to the shed once the 08' has put the stock back in the platform. 5043 always looks a picture under the cover of darkness on Tyseley's turntable, echoing memories of the days when the shed was a day to day centre of Great Western steam. I was glad to ride the short distance over to the shed on the footplate of 5043, taking in the sights and sounds of her in action. She is a beautiful machine and a credit to the team who restored her at Tyseley. I arrived home at around 11:30pm after a most pleasant outing. I'm looking forward to next week - the Castle is off to Cardiff! I guess it'll be "croeso y cymru 5043" once again. The route looks very interesting and offers a return over the Welsh Marches - can't wait. Cheers all, Sam...

No comments: