Saturday, 10 June 2017

Driving at Statfold: A Corpet & A Krauss...

"Driving The Corpet" (Pic - M.Dean)
Occasionally you are rostered for a turn that you're 100% certain will be a good day. In fact, all of our locomotive turns at the award winning Statfold Barn Railway have been fantastic over the years, come rain or shine. June 10th heralded the arrival of Statfold's second Enthusiasts Day of the 2017 season and 15 locomotives would be in steam, boosted by the addition of Tram Car No14 and The Goose. During the lead up to the event it seemed I was in for a quiet day, having originally been rostered for a 'Relief' turn - basically a standby driver. However, during the week, a turn became available and the roster was edited to book me on "Minas De Aller" - the French Corpet. Built in Paris in 1884, No2 always attracts interest at the SBR due to her unusual looks. The Brown valve gear, with the valve chests slung beneath the pistons, is always a talking point. After picking up my McDonalds breakfast on route, I arrived in the queue at the Statfold gates at 5:45am. Once we were in, we parked up before stumbling to the engine shed to sign in and start preparations...
"6am - A Smoky Atmosphere On Shed"
As usual, the shed frontage at Statfold was a hive of activity with engine drivers and firemen running around trying to scramble for spanners and oil cans. An interesting point whilst talking about crews is the diversity of the team. The enginemen which staff the SBR open days are from all over - Ffestiniog, West Lancs, Mid Hants, Amerton and Welsh Highland amongst others. The mornings on shed always offer a good opportunity to catch up and exchange gossip! When I arrived at our engine Fireman Ben was getting changed. The Hayling lads had already done their work - they always light the fires before we get in. Opening the firehole door revealed a blazing bed of wood which I then covered with the smoky coal from the bunker. No2, amongst other quirks, has no damper and so comes round like no tomorrow. Within an hour or so she was starting to look like she'd been called to take the Mid Day Scot over Shap...
The valve gear is very accessible on the Corpet, with a variety of cork-stopped reservoirs to top up with motion oil. The axleboxes required a quick syringe to ensure that oil and not water was reaching the brasses. Finally there are two globes mounted on the pannier tanks for the cylinders and a small pot for the steam brake atop the manifold to fill with cylinder oil, plus the mechanical lubricator mounted on the frame on the drivers side. All in all it was a pleasant and easy preparation, with No2 doing her best to provide steam for all of the engines on the shed frontage. As 'off shed' time neared, we had the normal Safety Briefing from the operating managers before we nipped for our breakfast cob ("yes...more food!")...
The Corpet, despite her years, is an amazingly powerful and sure footed machine which is easily capable of handling SBR duties single handed. Double-heading has however become the norm at Statfold due to the large amount of locomotives on the roster at each open day - if we all ran alone we'd only get one trip! We were lucky enough to be coupled to JB and Steve on the equally vintage Krauss 'Sragi No1', which myself & Eddie had a great day on last April - see here. The two engines came off shed at around 10am to take up their place at the head of the freight train. As the Krauss doesn't have a steam brake, the effective example on the Corpet was used to slow our descent from the shed. After an easy first run with our two powerful steeds, we reached the balloon loop and the usual pathing stop...
JB and Steve were great company throughout the day. However, as normal, JB's 'constructive criticism' made them resemble Waldorf and Statler by the end of the day, offering relentless sarcastic driving tips from the comfort of their balcony...
Returning to Statfold Jnc, our fairly long ensemble was turned on the turntable before slowly trundling through the running shed to reach the shed frontage once again. We weren't stationary for long before we were called again...
"Second Trip - Waiting At The Balloon Loop"
Our second outing consisted of the ex-L & B passenger stock which pulls beautifully and has some wonderfully controllable air brakes. Geoff Cryer was out and about with his camera once more and captured Sragi No1 getting us on the move with a little help from the green Corpet tucked inside...
"A Krauss & A Corpet Join Forces" (Pic - G.Cryer)
The Krauss is another machine that surprises with its ratio of strength vs years. The pairing provided a powerful union capable of any task...
"Basking In The Sun at Oak Tree"
Having paused for water and a cuppa' at Oak Tree whilst waiting for the down train to pass, the two engines returned to Statfold with ease. Soon enough, having passed through the yard via the turntable again, we were waiting at the disc signals in the yard near the signalbox for our next move...
"Marchlyn" and "Sybil Mary" soon arrived with the L & B stock once more. This would form our third outing of the day with the Corpet leading once again. We were having a lovely time. Fireman Ben was making steam for our needs with ease and No2 was her usual self - noisy and powerful...
We were soon awaiting departure in the platform...
The Corpet, with no damper, steams like no tomorrow on a candle and so Fireman Ben was even resorting to hand firing. His technique of simply filling the holes in the bed certainly seemed to do the trick as the engine was right where he wanted her. We were having a great day aboard our 133-year old steed...
From a drivers point of view, the Corpet is a pleasant thing to be on. The main eccentricity is the regulator being effectively outside the cab. The handle is located just in front of the weather board. The engine does however have a very nice screw reverser and with the regulator set you can bring her back gently and hear the note change accordingly. The power packed inside this engine is scary really...she just wants to go. The stopping ability is also admirable, with a traditional steam brake fitted which is more than satisfactory. All in all, it is a quirky and workmanlike machine which has far more to offer than you would first think...
"Nearing The Balloon Loop" (Pic - T.Easter)
The beat of the Corpet is also very different. The large cylinders give it a strong exhaust, though the beat does tend to turn into almost machine gun fire once you go faster than a few miles per hour. Its a most unusual engine but great to be on...
"In The Headshunt Awaiting The Road"
For our fourth trip we were yet again on the ex-L & B coaches. JB provided a great display whilst departing from Statfold Jnc as the 1899-built Krauss got us "on the move" in fine style. I think I'll call this the "JB Column"...
"The Volcanic Krauss" (Pic - T.Easter)
Amazingly, after our fourth trip we ended up getting a fifth outing which is always welcome. The Corpet would again be leading for our final passenger working of the day. We are captured here by Michael Dean, returning to Statfold. The Corpet has the train moving easily with a little help from No1. I'm just looking back to check all is well as we approach the viewing gallery at the foot of the bank to Oak Tree...
"On The Move" (Pic - M.Dean)
Leaving Oak Tree, with the train clear of the station limits, the engine accelerated up towards line speed with ease. Leaving the regulator where it is, a spin on the reverser brings her to a sort of cruise and if you need to wind her in a little on the final climb towards the Outer Home you can. What a lovely old thing! Having been uncoupled from our coaches at Statfold Jnc, the engines were turned to reach the shed road a final time before the cavalcade. "Minas De Aller" - the veteran of the Spanish Coal Mines - was then disposed of where she stood along with her 14 stable mates...
Well, another fantastic day on the footplate at Statfold Barn! I must thank Fireman Ben for his cheerful company aboard No2 and for putting up with me as his driver. I must also thank our comedic duo Britt & Steve for their company aboard our assisting engine - the Krauss. Finally, I must thank the various photographers who have kindly allowed me to use their images in this post, as well as all at Statfold for another great opportunity. Cheers all, thanks for reading, Sam...

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