Sunday, 4 June 2017

Evesham Vale: A "Dougal" Day...

Hi all. After a quiet day working on "Clun Castle" yesterday at Tyseley, this morning saw me out bright and early for another turn at the Evesham Vale Light Railway. Hitting the road just before 7am, the saunter into Worcestershire along the A46 proved no trouble and, having collected my McDonalds breakfast on route, I continued to the EVLR's base at Twyford. Stomach satisfied, I met with Adrian & Sandra before signing in. On this pleasant sunny morning I was very pleased to hear Adrian utter the words "you're on Dougal today" . The Severn Lamb 0-6-2 is a strong and characterful little engine and with the sun shining it seemed that a great day was ahead. With the shed open, we pushed No3 outside in readiness for preparation...
"Dougal" had been on service for a couple of days and the heat emanating from the doorplate into the cab showed I'd have no issue raising steam. Before the fire could be lit, any remaining embers would be raked through the bars and the David Curwen ashpan also had to be emptied - an easy way to get covered in dust before things got going! Having checked in the smokebox and firebox to ensure all was well, an embryo fire was lit using paraffin-soaked rags...
With the rags blazing away on the grate, wood was added before a final layer of coal. In my limited experience the Welsh coal needs a good heat beneath it to take easily and so I tend to just layer up the box with good lumps and leave the engine to get on with it. The warm chimney and the auxiliary draft provided by the airline ensured that there was plenty of airflow through the fire bed and that everything would move in the right direction. With the fire crackling away to itself nicely, I set to with the cleaning implements: Peek for the Brasses, Pledge for the Paintwork. I normally try to go off shed just after 10am, leaving plenty of time prior to the first departure at 10:30. Before leaving, the Baker valve gear is lubricated with motion oil and the mechanical lubricator topped up with cylinder oil. A splash of oil down the horn guides completes the process and with 130psi on the clock we were ready to go. With a pip on the whistle, "Dougal" hissed into life and meandered gently through the groaning point work to reach the mouth of the yard. At this point the locomotive was blown down...
Some passers by did ask about the purpose of the loud ejection of steam from the boiler at this stage. The answer is simple really. Any deposits which leave the water during evaporation tend to collect at the boilers lowest point: the foundation ring at the foot of the firebox. The EVLR engines have blow down valves fitted here so that each morning the valve can be opened and steam ejected at high pressure. The ejected steam will take along deposits with it, thus effectively 'cleaning out' the boiler. This process doesn't make washouts or water changes any less necessary but it does help increase the life of the boiler and reduce the amount of deposits inside. Soon enough, "Dougal" was waiting for the off with the 10:30 departure...
I knew it was all too good to be true. Only a few minutes before departure the dark clouds rolled in and the heavens began to open. As it started spitting, the decision was taken to shunt the open stock into the spur line on Platform 3 road whilst the diesel "Cromwell" put the closed stock in Platform 1...
Having shunted the open stock onto the spare road, I rolled "Dougal" back across to Platform 1 and assumed our position at the head of the train. Sure enough it hadn't rained heavily after all, though the dark clouds were persistent and threatening. Leaving Twyford a couple of minutes down, the engine steamed easily to Evesham Vale. The first train was quiet, with only a couple of passengers aboard...
"No3 at Evesham Vale With The First Train"
Returning to Twyford, "Dougal" was turned on the table before calling at the water column for water. The addition of the large tender to the former tank engine has resulted in plenty of room on the footplate and its a very pleasant environment to work in. The tender was soon full of water...
Adrian would be the Guard until the 1:30pm trip, when Sandra would take over for the afternoon stint. The flurry of passengers during the first two trips was steady but four coaches were required for the Midday outing. With four on "Dougal" does bark well up the stiff banks on the approach to Evesham Vale. Although she is a fair size, the Exmoor engines "Monty" and "Egwin" both find four coaches fairly easy in comparison. As long as you have the steam though, "Dougal" will do what you ask...
Later, "Dougal" climbs towards Twyford from Evesham Vale...
A peek in the firebox during a layover at Twyford between trips...
"Fire In The Hole"
"Dougal" pulled well and steamed freely throughout most of the day. The short bursts of power required at Evesham are easily provided as long as you don't get too complacent. The coal used aboard the EVLR engines is such that little and often is the only way to prevent almost constant blowing off. However, running the fire down has its limits and sometimes the coal you think is there is actually just glowing ash that has already burnt off its calorific value. For example, an early afternoon four coach train got hold of "Dougal" a little more than I'd have liked and the pressure needle began to creep back. On closer inspection of the grate the coal had burnt away fully and a few rounds brought smoke to the chimney and also the required results to the gauge. Sure enough, the red line was reached as soon as the regulator was closed and I then spent two trips trying to calm the thing down...always the way! For the 3pm trip, the traditional Evesham "Tea & Cake" was served to the footplate. A Bakewell Tart was the order of the day and was subsequently devoured...
As I sat down on the tender seat with my cuppa', I couldn't help but notice the unsavoury clouds from earlier rolling in once more. Sure enough, the 3pm train departed in a cloud of steam and rain! My tea was protected behind the weather board but my face took the full force of the battering. The rain did clear slightly for the Evesham Vale layover but would return as we departed with sanders in operation. It was a very changeable day...
The road ahead with a damp cab roof...
Departing Evesham Vale on wet rails, "Dougal" had a couple of slips before climbing towards Twyford. The general idea here is to get the weight moving upgrade as quickly as possible as if you are going to stall you need to make sure your train clears the spring-loaded trailing points. Most of the time the engine will hold firm until the foot crossing just after the points, where the accumulation of dirt and leaves brought over by crossing pedestrians tends to lower the rail condition. Again, the bigger engines like "Monty" don't really bother but the Severn Lamb is just that little bit lighter. Earlier in the day the sanders had already been used during an impromptu downpour...
"Taking Shelter at Twyford Station"
Having sheltered for a short while under the canopy at Twyford, the engine was brought around smartly to take out the 3:30pm train. It was still raining and the best way to hide from it (I find anyway) is to stand up and just let your face take it whilst the cab does its best to protect your overalls. Amazingly, the 4pm train waited to depart in sunshine as the clouds parted revealing patches of blue sky!...
It had already been decided that "Cromwell" would provide diesel haulage for the 4:30pm train and so "Dougal"s last trip was the 4pm. We departed in sunshine, although it was still quite damp in the air. "Dougal" is perhaps the 'drivers engine' of Evesham. She has the standard regulator arrangement, unlike the silky smooth ball valves carried on the Exmoor's. This gives her a bit of a 'feel' and you can set the regulator where you like and she'll stride away. Its a very nice engine. Built in Stratford in 1970 by Severn Lamb, the engine worked its heart out at the Safari Park-based Longleat Railway. Back then it was a tank engine with a smaller boiler. The team at Evesham gave her a new, larger boiler and a tender and this has transformed her into a much more powerful machine...
After a final stop at Evesham Vale, we prepared for departure homeward...
"The Footplate of No3"
As I've said many times before, a day at Evesham isn't stressful nor taxing. Its a very pleasant, quiet experience involving gentle chugs through countryside greenery with a happy little engine. Upon returning to Twyford, Steve already had "Cromwell" ticking away in readiness to take over our train. "Dougal" was turned once more and then steamed back to the shed for disposal and ashing out...
With the ashpan dropped, I drove "Dougal" over onto "Egwin"s road as the latter is in the main shed having the cylinders and chassis overhauled. The smokebox was cleaned out and everything checked prior to cleaning her up and filling the boiler. It would soon be time to drive "Dougal" gently backwards into the shed on her final breaths of steam before stabling...
With the engine safely back in the shed after a most enjoyable day, it was time to wash up and sign out before the journey home. As usual I must thank Adrian & Sandra for another brilliant day on the footplate at their railway. "Dougal" is a lovely little engine and always a pleasure to be on. Until next time - Cheers, Sam...

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