Saturday, 1 April 2017

Shackerstone: Spring Time With The Greyhound...

"Getting Away from Shackerstone" (Pic - M.Creese)
Hi all. The National Railway Museum's beautiful LSWR T9 4-4-0 has created quite a stir during its recent visit to Shackerstone. It has brought several enthusiasts and photographers to the Leicestershire line with the promise of antique Southern steam. I think it is therefore our privilege to have the opportunity to crew this express passenger engine during her holiday away from her Cornish base at Bodmin. Today myself & JB had been booked to man the engine on the Battlefield Line's first Green Timetable (5 trips) running day of the 2017 season. I arrived at the gates of Shackerstone at around 6:20am, with the birds singing loudly as if to warn each other of my presence. Having meandered down to the loco yard with my ever growing variety of kit in hand, I stumbled through the door into the gloom of the shed. As the lights came up, the T9 came into view in front of "Cumbria". I opened the roller door first, letting in a little more light...
Driver JB soon arrived and we started our day with the most important of tasks: making the tea. With a cuppa' in hand, I climbed up onto the engine to check the state of affairs. Opening the gauge glass cocks revealed a healthy 3/4 of a glass and the pressure gauge read 20psi. The warming fire had done its work and its remaining embers were easily scraped through the gaps in the firebars with the long iron. I then laid a bed of coal around the box before breaking up some pallet wood. JB threw the wood into the box at the back end before I lit some oily rags up on the shovel...
"The Ignition Rags"
The engine had been cleaned and ashed out yesterday and so all we had to do was raise steam, oil her up and then buff her up with some clean rags. As the pit was blocked by "Cumbria" anyway, we saw little sense in keeping 30120 indoors. I wandered off down to the North End in search of a diesel shunter with which to draw out the T9. In the yard I found 04110: the railways Class 04 0-6-0. After checking the oil and the status of the thing, I pressed the go-go button and the diesel roared into life, firing smoke up into the air. The 04 certainly woke the sheep up in the field over the way at 7:30am! The shunter then made up adequate air with which to work the controls and brakes before I selected gear and drove away. The T9 was neatly drawn outside before being screwed down and scotched. I returned the 04 to the North End before heading back to 30120 to help Britt oil up. As the "young lad" (of the two of us!) I was sent inside...
"Anatomy of a Greyhound"
It takes the mind of a future contortionist to slide effortlessly into the motion of an inside cylindered locomotive. Compared to a Pannier the T9 is fairly roomy but you still have to find the right areas in which to fit your body parts. The 4-4-0 employs the typical Stephenson's valve gear arrangement with two hefty cranks and four eccentrics making up the crank axle. At the smokebox end sit the expansion links, slide bars, crossheads etc. I wouldn't mind seeing a video of this lot thrashing round at 60+...
Whilst I finished the oiling up, JB was dusting off the already polished paintwork. The engine looked smart as she simmered nicely outside the shed. The fire had brought the engine around fairly quickly, though she was pretty hot from her warming fire already. Our first train was scheduled for 11:15am...
"Ready For Duty On Shackerstone Shed"
At around 10:45am we got the road through No11 points to proceed out into Platform 1. The engine then steamed over the cross-over to reach Platform 2 road. The large tender of the T9 needed replenishing before we backed down onto the waiting 4-coach train. It holds 4000 gallons of water but the bag on the Shackerstone water column now has so many holes in it it looks like it was the victim of a shoot-out with John Wayne. As much goes over you as into the tank and so watering took more time than we thought. Once the tender was full, we backed down onto the stock and prepared for departure...
The T9 got away from Shackerstone smartly. Once the chimney got warm and the steam circuit had expelled its morning condensation, the exhaust became crisper and the engine sounded beautiful. One thing I will say about this old engine is that her voice is something to behold. Its lovely. John worked the T9 gently on this first run, allowing everything to warm up at its own pace. Onlookers are often surprised when we explain that though an engine may have 160psi on the clock she is still 'cold' on the first run of the day. The Greyhound was having no trouble making steam, blissfully nudging the needle towards the red line all the way. We were soon running round at Shenton ready for the homeward trip. The day was going very well so far: very pleasant indeed...
The second run saw us a little late off Shackerstone for a variety of reasons beyond our control. All things were however well with the T9 as John got her on the move away from the Hedleys Crossing 10mph slack on the 12:30 trip to Shenton...
The Greyhound was roaming easily through Leicestershire...
During the 12:42 passenger stop at Market Bosworth I climbed down from the T9 to grab a shot of her at the head of the train. She is an attractive machine...
Market Bosworth Station has undergone some heavy engineering over the winter closed period. The track has been lifted and damaged sections of drainage replaced. This section has long suffered with hanging water and so the new drainage will hopefully improve matters. A new point has also been installed as the embryonic beginnings of a future passing loop. The engineering work has resulted in a "Dead Slow" slack being imposed on the section whilst it settles in. The T9 worked steadily over the new point throughout the day as we arrived and departed Market Bosworth...
During the first trip JB had ordered some breakfast from the Shenton cafe and this arrived on the footplate upon our arrival. Very tasty it was too...
Having run round and coupled back up, the T9 simmered away as we ate our breakfast and awaited departure with the 1:05pm trip to Shackerstone...
"JB Tucks In"
Stomachs replenished, we headed back to Shackerstone on our Southern steed. Built in 1899, this old 4-4-0 still has bags of life left in her. Granted we were only pulling a 4-coach rake but you can feel the power beneath your feet. A 175psi boiler feeding 19" cylinders connected to 6ft 7" wheels produces a tractive effort of 17,670 lbs - not bad for an old un'! The engine is a pleasure to be on...
The 1:45pm departure would see a 'Footplate Pass' guest on board...
"The 'Beast of Bodmin' With The 1:45pm Train"
No doubt I chewed the poor fella's ear off all the way to Shenton with ridiculous ramblings about the beauty of the T9 and its various antiquated quirks...sorry about that! It wasn't long before the 2:20pm trip to Shackerstone was upon us...
Thankfully our gentleman enjoyed his ride aboard the sole surviving Greyhound and went off happy. We then ran the engine round again in readiness for the 3pm departure. JB kindly said I could drive the remaining two round trips whilst he had a go at firing. I quote - "Out of my way then, let the dog see the rabbit!"...
"The Road Ahead From Shackerstone"
I was thankful, despite only having four coaches, to get the T9 "on the move" without slipping as this would have resulted in several cracks from JB! The 4-4-0 moved gracefully out of Shackerstone with pressure nearing the red line and the water up at 3/4 of a glass. Once under Barton Bridge you can get the engine underway and she sounds a treat. Its surprising how little regulator produces such an intoxicating beat at the chimney. You can then easily adjust the valve settings with a pull or push on the steam reverser. One of my favourite things about driving the T9 is its Gresham vacuum ejector - its great. These ejectors, to my mind, are some of the best ever fitted to steam engines and are fantastic in operation when they're set up right. Its a pleasure to drive this machine.

Having run round at Shenton and returned to Shack, we were soon on the front of the train again ready for our final departure of the day...
The weather for the day had been mostly sunny but there were a few fairly heavy rain showers which came and went. JB had had a lovely day...
Pulling gently out of Shackerstone it created much amusement for JB when I edged the regulator over that tiny bit too far and produced a 1/4 of a wheel slip. "First of the day, first of the day" he taunted through breathlessness created by mocking laughter. My excuse sticks with the rain shower we departed in! Once on the move the T9 was away. I'd love to see this engine with six or seven on...I bet she's a treat...
"The NRM's T9 Arrives At Shenton On The 4:15pm Train" (Pic - M.Creese)
I'm not sure what is happening here as JB works the points at Shenton...
Having run round, Martin Creese caught me driving the T9 in to buffer up...
"Driving The T9" (Pic - M.Creese)
Once on the stock, I coupled up for the final departure homeward. The sky had returned to its pretty shade of blue as the T9 feathered beneath...
The sun was shining as we departed Shenton on the last trip of the day. We did run into a little rainstorm as we left Market Bosworth but this cleared to reveal a colourful rainbow as we drew near to Hedleys. Arrival at Shackerstone was right on time and once the T9 was uncoupled we drew back behind No7 disc signal to await the road. With the dolly 'off' I drove 30120 up through Platform 1 road and through No11 points to reach the shed, coming to a stop just in front of "Cumbria" where we found the T9 this morning. It was then time to begin the disposal procedure. The fire was fairly dead but there was a little clinker to remove. The T9 has no rocking grate and the firebars are quite close together meaning that any broken clinker tends not to fall through. Thinking of the crew the next morning, we decided to paddle out any clinker. Paddling is by far the last thing you want to do after a full day on an engine but it needs to be done. The ashes are lifted out of the firebox and tipped into a barrow alongside the engine. Its heavy, sweaty and dusty work...
"JB Snaps Me Paddling The Fire"
With the boiler well filled, the fire deadened, the clinker removed and all of the necessary items isolated, we left the T9 to simmer away to herself for the night. It had been a very enjoyable day on the old Greyhound and I must thank JB for his company aboard the 1899-built veteran. It was a most enjoyable experience. This engine is lovely and I am thankful for the days I have done on her footplate. Shes a beautiful old gal'. Click here for a video by Nick Short of today. Thanks all, Sam...

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