Saturday, 24 March 2018

Driving "Howard" at Statfold: A Brazil Day...

"Tailing With 'Howard' On The Lynton Set" (Pic - G.Cryer)
Today, at last, my Cold Firebox Syndrome was cured at the regulator of "Howard" during an eventful day at the Statfold Barn Railway. After my usual McDonalds stop on route, I arrived at a dimly lit Statfold at just before 6am. In the muddy car park field the overnight drizzle had succeeded in its relentless work and Andy was already stuck in his Mercedes! Content not to be, I tore past Will repeating "don't stop me!". Car parked and unloaded, a gaggle of us wandered across to the lamp hut to sign on and find our engines for the day. I soon met up with Fireman Ben who joined me aboard the Hunslet 0-4-2 as we made preparations to light the embryo fire. "Howard" was still hot after yesterdays warming fire and the general opinion was that she wouldn't take long to come into steam - how wrong we were!...
With smoke rising steadily from the chimney, I set about oiling "Howard" up for the days work. Almost all of her oiling points feature wick-feed pots with screw lids and so an adjustable is necessary to get the job done. The engine carries Stephenson's valve gear and the valve movement is transferred outside the frames via a rocking arm. Its a nice workable engine to prepare of a morning...
I'd done the steam brake oiler yesterday as well as the mechanical lubricator and the two steam chest mounted lubricators so there was nothing on the cylinder oil front left to do. The motion oil portion of the preparation was completed with the filling of the axleboxes and the truck boxes which guzzled a surprising amount after a few weeks stood idle. As the light came up, all around us the other Statfold engines were coming to life on the always atmospheric shed frontage...
"Howard" however was very sluggish to make steam. She'd been singing well for a good hour and yet nothing was registering on the clock, despite a fair amount of steam from the passing whistle valve. An examination of the fire and the smokebox revealed that the tubes had become a little furred up, in part due to the very smoky coal we use. So, with other engines blowing off around us we had to play the waiting game. The usual jokes were enjoyed as many fingers pointed towards our seemingly unrequired pressure gauge - it isn't so funny on the receiving end! The old saying "a watched pot never boils" is forever apt with steam engines and eventually you find yourself tapping the gauge going "its broken...this ones broken!". The engine did however eventually summon enough steam to provide some blower and the torrent of muck which rained down upon the freshly polished saddle tank was followed by some life in the needle which rose increasingly rapidly. Sure enough the panic was over and "Howard" was ready for her duties once she was required...
"Waiting Outside The Signalbox"
Once given the road, I drove "Howard" from the yard to Platform 1 road to back onto the waiting freight. The freight train is the heaviest rake in use on SBR open days and always provides some shout from the chimney. Coupled up, we awaited the road. "Liassic" and "Statfold" soon stormed in on a passenger working, freeing up the section for "Howard" to depart. With a "Right Away" from the Guard and a pip on "Howard"s extremely shrill whistle, I released the steam brake and the gradient took us away. Ben grabbed the token from the signalbox as we passed and we drifted towards the section board. Condensate hissed from the drains as we approached the tram shed bend and once they were closed I opened up the regulator and "Howard"s exhaust turned black as the remaining muck in the tubes found its way skyward!...
"On The Freight" (Pic - G.Lightfoot)
With the token having been surrendered we continued into the balloon loop to come to a stand at the stop board at the end of the Cogan Halt platform...
Screwed down and feathering, "Howard" awaited a path back towards Oak Tree whilst running repairs were effected on the "Goose"...
I tell you what we had a storming run back to Statfold. It was not even like the engine was being overworked: the freight is deceptively heavy and you have to work up the gradients. "Howard" proved no trouble with the needle hugging the red line and plenty of power under your hand. I could literally feel my CFS departing! A brief stop at Oak Tree for some water and a nice cuppa' whilst we waited for the next down train was followed by an equally pleasant ascent back up to Statfold where the climb into the old bay platform (now Platform 1 road) turned heads as the Hunslet dug into the gradient - it was poetry in motion! Unfortunately (I shouldn't say that but we were having a great time solo!) we were then asked to couple up to "Trangkil No4" to provide a double Brazil combo for the rest of the day. Happily however our next departure was pretty much imminent, hauling the Lynton set tailed by GP39 & the Davenport...
"A Brazil Double Act" (Pic - G.Lightfoot)
Here we are departing Statfold with Driver Paul getting "Trangkil" on the move...
"The Brazil's Make A Volcanic Departure" (G.Lightfoot)
Its probably best to round off the following events with the quote "oh look cried Ned...and then the Kingdom was his forever the end!" and move on to our departure from the balloon loop with the two Brazil's...
Its nice to see the two Brazil's together and compare their differences. "Howard" was built in 1936 whilst "Trangkil" was the final steam locomotive built in Britain for industrial purposes as late as 1971. Both carry marine style rods, although "Howard" carries Stephenson's valve gear versus her younger sisters Hackworth variant. Both are powerful tank engines and very capable machines, although "Howard"s responsive steam brake makes her an easier contender for shunting. "Trangkil" worked on the sugar plant of her namesake in Java, working in revenue earning service until as late as 2004 I believe. "Howard" on the other hand was far more local in comparison, operating at the North British Aluminium Company in Scotland. In preservation she was named "Josephine" and had been converted to a side tank by the time Statfold got hold of her. I drove her in her unusual form as "Josephine" and found it weird but quirky all the same - see post here. She later received a dramatic sex change and was restored in original form as "Howard" a few years ago. A good all round machine, this Hunslet product is a wonderful tool.

Upon arrival back at Statfold station "Trangkil" was uncoupled, turned and then put on the other end of the set so that we could top & tail for the rest of the day...
"On The Tail Of The Train" (Pic - G.Cryer)
We had two more trips doing the work: one in reverse, one going forwards. Our run going backwards was most enjoyable with "Howard" in good voice and really pulling for all she was worth. The image below shows us travelling towards Statfold on the way back: the exhaust appearing over the train is from the snorting Mallet which is doing its best to catch up on the adjacent high level line...
"Chugging Back to Statfold" (Pic - G.Cryer)
After our reverse run we had time between trains to turn "Howard" on the table so that our final run on the front would be chimney first...
I can't lie, today made my respect for "Howard" grow considerably more. I found her even more free steaming and powerful than normal and she was certainly not afraid to shout out her voice at the chimney. Apart from the mishaps earlier in the day, myself & Ben had a great time aboard the 1936-built 0-4-2...
"Steaming Along With A Brazil" (Pic - G.Cryer)
As is typical with Statfold open days, our last train was joined by the rain. Just as we reached the balloon loop on the tail of "Trangkil" it started to come down, steady at first but then heavier. We had to wait here until No19 arrived with the token, ready to join us for a three-loco trip back to Oak Tree. Ben meanwhile was relaxed in his work and sat contemplating life on the cab steps...
Bagnall 4-4-0 "Isibutu" soon passed us hauling the final high level train. She's still my favourite: what a fine old machine she is...
Our final run back to Statfold was a little more eventful, with "Trangkil" feeling the weight of the train on the now dampened rails. "Howard" and No19 gave assistance on the ascent of the bank before the ensemble was joined by "Harrogate" at Oak Tree. The four-loco passenger train then continued back to Statfold to join the rest of the fleet as they lined up for the cavalcade. Having been uncoupled from the rear of the L & B set, our trio of steamers descended into the yard area to join the rest of the loco's. The blue Mallet soon sidled up behind us prior to the usual 'Whistle Up'...
We all began bedding our engines down whilst the final machines joined the line-up. "Howard"s fire was raked and deadened, the boiler filled and fittings isolated as normal. The team of shunters would come tomorrow to put the engines back in the roundhouse. After the screeching chorus of whistles and bells, the public began to retire from the site whilst we did our final checks and left the engines to settle for the night. A jacket potato and a beer was very much deserved now after an eventful day! It was great to be driving again today - I really enjoyed it...I always love the Statfold open days. Thank you to Ben for doing the firing, Paul & Joey for their company with "Trangkil No4" and to Alex for rostering us. Also thanks to Geoff Cryer and Graham Lightfoot for sending in the much appreciated images used in this post. Many thanks indeed for reading everyone - the CFS is gone. Thanks all, Sam...

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