Saturday, 15 April 2017

The "Easter Eggspress" With A Glorious Greyhound...

"A Leicestershire Greyhound" (Pic - C.Yapp)
Hi all. During the sunny yet blustery weather of today, there was little that could disturb the rural charm of the Leicestershire countryside but the roar of the LSWR T9 stomping back & forth along the Battlefield Line. Today myself and David were rostered to crew the 1899-built 4-4-0 and the weather men had promised clear but chilly conditions for our outing. Originally JB was to be my fellow engineman but unfortunately he had to call in sick at the last moment and T9 fan David kindly stepped into the breach. We arrived at the gates of Shackerstone at 6:30am before making our way along the oh so familiar dust ridden driveway to reach the station. Having signed in and read the notices, we stumbled down to the engine shed, discovering "Sir Gomer" standing right behind the door. The T9 was at the front of the shed again, ready for preparations to begin. Opening the gauge glasses revealed a "full pot" and, having cleaned the grate and checked the firebox, it was time to light the embryo fire using a well soaked pile of old rags...
With a bed of coal 1-lump thick across the grate, the blazing rags were soon covered with some good, dry pallet wood. The telltale crackling that follows is always a good sign. I allowed the flames to take hold around the freshly added wood before opening the firehole door to check progress. The tender was full to bursting with a new delivery of coal which looked like 'good stuff' from a distance. However, adding a mere half a dozen shovelfuls to the back of the box near enough choked the flames down to a pathetic orange glow. More damper would give the required primary air but with no steam to provide to the blower this would be a bit of a waiting game. The coal had no trouble lighting but was very smoky stuff of almost house coal consistency, providing an almost green smoke. Meanwhile, David had started oiling the Greyhound...
With the fire providing all the heat of a tealight on the mantle, I decided to head off in search of a diesel shunter to drag the T9 outside. The 04 was discovered in the North End and as Jason had just pulled up, we travelled to the shed together aboard the diesel. The T9 was soon outside, simmering away in the chilly morning air on her first breaths of steam. The engine had been well warmed yesterday as usual but the new coal was proving less than ideal. It had no trouble burning but without the correct draft it pretty much refused to provide the necessary temperatures required for adequate steam raising. Once the needle had reluctantly shifted to register some pressure, the blower was cracked and the coal began to do its work. The screams of local farmers wives running to their washing lines to save their crisp linen from coal smuts could be heard from miles around as the chimney provided an emission of carbon black...
As the engine neared the realms of working pressure, Jason had restarted the 04 ready to effect a shunt. He wanted to take "Sir Gomer" and "Cumbria" down for coal and so the T9 was duly shunted over onto Platform 1 road to clear the way. From here, David could complete his oiling tasks within the belly of the Greyhound...
"Pots & Spindles"
With the 04 having disappeared with its two industrial forefathers in tow, David instructed me to take the T9 back over into the shed. Vac created, the T9 slipped backwards behind No11 point. Road set, we chugged up into the shed with the drain cocks hissing away and firing reams of condensation into the air. The wall of fog cleared to reveal the pit just in front of the Southern machine and she was duly stopped over the top of it. It was then my pleasure to empty the ash pan. This is a real "romance of steam" job. The glistening oils from the motion above gently drop down all over you, providing a welcome surface to attract the clouds of dust which engulf the area no matter how much hosepipe you give it! Some people would pay good money for such rare skin treatments! Pan done, the engine steamed back out of the shed and over onto Platform 2 road via the signalbox. The large tender was then replenished to full water capacity before dropping back down onto the waiting 4-coach stock.

We then decided it was time to get changed in readiness for our imminent 11:15am departure to Shenton. Departing 2 minutes down, the T9 was now happy with her pressure needle nudging the red line and water well up the glass - but not too high! The "Easter Eggspress" was well on its way. We had an easy run to Shenton. By now I was learning the new coal. The engine needed more of it than the last stuff we had and the smoke effects were ghastly to say the least. However, with the regulator open to provide the draft through the bed the needle would sit at full working pressure without any issue. Interestingly, as soon as you shut off steam the needle would either stick like a limpet or drop like a stone, depending on the application of the injector(s). Then, once again, with the regulator open the pressure would rise, nudging full pressure once more. It was strange stuff but it did the job, of sorts...
"Preparing To Depart Shenton With The 11:50 to Shackerstone"
Returning to Shackerstone with ease, myself & David were happy in our work. The run-round at Shackerstone allowed us to claw back a little bit of time lost by the many passengers joining us at Market Bosworth. A fifth coach was definitely needed for today's numbers and Jason duly summoned the 04 once more for another shunting task. Meanwhile, we were off again with 30120. This time I was on the regulator with David flinging the shovel around. Once again, the T9 is beautiful to drive. Its just lovely. The phrase "the old un's are the best un's" is so apt with this engine...
"Driving Into Market Bosworth" (Pic - S.Sterland)
The Dreadnought vacuum ejector is fantastic in operation and is a pleasure to use. A gent came up to us today and said that he recorded a BR working behind a Greyhound in the 50's and it topped out at 82mph...I can well believe it!...
"In The Sun At Shenton - 13:05 Trip"
David had kindly ordered us breakfast from the Shenton Cafe on the previous trip. This was kindly delivered to the footplate and was just what the doctor ordered. My mouth is watering just looking at this picture...
Steaming back to Shackerstone, David had the old gal' singing to him. After another brisk run-round, the T9 had the road for the 13:45 departure...
Steaming out of Shackerstone with a dark grey tint to the exhaust, the T9 barked out into the fields. The Spring weather was glorious as the old engine steamed southward past the rapeseed fields of Hedleys, just after Congerstone...
The sun was shining as the T9 prepared to accelerate away from the slack currently imposed on the section through Hedleys...
Driver David prepares to open the regulator of the T9 to accelerate back up to the permitted line-speed of 25mph for the remaining section to Market Bosworth. Cut-off is currently full-forward (or 75%) for coasting...
The T9 runs gracefully through the fields and if you shut off steam at the woods on the approach to Bosworth she'll coast in easily. As JB would say "she rolls for England". Here we are approaching Market Bosworth International Airport...
"Airport Bridge" (Pic - C.Yapp)
During the short stop at MB I hopped down quickly to grab a shot of the T9 under the blue skies. Unfortunately we had ended up carrying the incorrect headlamp code - "a parcels, newspaper or perishables train made up of coaching stock". Upon reflection, I'm unsure why we carried the headboard on that bracket...maybe because it was there when we came in early this morning. We lose a point for that...
Leaving Market Bosworth over the "Dead Slow" slack across the new point, the T9 was soon on the move again bound for Shenton. Its a bit rough down the extension now but the Greyhound copes admirably with her 6ft 7" wheels rolling steadily around beneath her. Soon enough we were uncoupled from the train at Shenton and David was backing the 4-4-0 back into the loop so I could set the road back ready for the next run. The headlamp code was back to normal now - "light engine"...
The T9 was soon hooked up and ready for the 14:20 departure...
There certainly were plenty of people about today. The strengthened five coach rake was still well loaded even on the 15:00 working from Shackerstone. I drove this trip whilst David continued piling the coal in...
"A Greyhound Leaving Shackerstone" (Pic - S.Sterland)
The engine was running very nicely and proving no trouble. The steaming capability was still a bit odd on the new coal but we had learnt to live with it by now. The engine is captured ready to go back again...
Rolling into Shackerstone, we surrendered the token before running round...
"Running Round at Shackerstone" (Pic - A.Williamson)
We decided to check the water in the tender ready for the final train of the day: the 16:15. There was still plenty in there, more than enough to do the rest of today with a lot to spare but we decided to fill it ready for tomorrow. The final train of the day left Shack with myself on the handle once again. You can't help but sit on the Drivers side of this engine leaning out and just listening to the square beats as she accelerates away. Its just a lovely thing to be on and I've really enjoyed these last 4 turns with her...
"Last Drive of the T9" (Pic - A.Williamson)
At Shenton, we ran round one last time before coupling up ready for the final homeward run. David was now on the handle once again whilst I tended to the fire. The engine was happily steaming homeward as we dawdled through Hedleys...
Arriving back at Shack with the last train of the day, 30120 was uncoupled and taken onto Platform 1 road. The fire was pretty dead by now and wouldn't take too much bashing with the irons to thin it nicely ready for overnight stabling. Up at the loco shed, "Sir Gomer" and "Cumbria" were blocking the road and so the T9 was disposed alongside them. "Cumbria" was being warmed ready for a test steaming...
The big end brasses for "Cumbria" are currently away at Tyseley for machining as they have been knocking since the engine arrived in 2015. Hopefully this maintenance work will improve matters. Whilst "Cumbria" is out of action, the railways own Peckett "Sir Gomer" will hopefully be filling the void as the T9 finishes at Shack after Easter Mondays services. The Peckett hasn't moved since October 2015 and so it will be interesting to see how she performs. The old gal' is an old friend and it was certainly a pleasure to see her out in the fresh air once again after so long out of use. Aside from being an 'ignorant industrial', she is a powerful old thing and quite handsome in her lines. Hopefully she'll be OK. The T9 meanwhile is off on holiday again to Quainton before returning to her Cornish residence at Bodmin. Its been a pleasure to crew this national treasure again...
After another great day out myself & David left the railway at around 6:30pm. I must thank David for a most enjoyable outing once again and thank Jason for his help today shunting the coaching stock. Finally I need to thank the various photographers who have once again sent in images for use in this post - they wouldn't be possible without you! Many thanks all, until the next time, Sam...

No comments: