30777 Sir Lamiel had another outing this week – making two in seven days (three if you count the engine & van move). We took her to Stratford-on-Avon on a Steam Dreams Cathedrals Express excursion.
The driver on the first leg was Pete Roberts, with Dave Wright as fireman, both of these know the engine well and put in a lively performance as far as Oxford, where Pete left us and Ray Churchill took over. Ray has a reputation for getting good performances out of engines, and he certainly gave us a good trip.
Ray Churchill blows the whistle prior to setting off to turn at Dorridge
At Stratford, Dave Wright was replaced by Pete Anson who worked all the way back, but Ray stayed on until Oxford, where Tommy Farr took over.
We’ve had a few comments back from passengers on the train: “A very exciting day was had by all especially as Ray Churchill was driving. Speed at Tackley was 57 with 69.5 at Heyford. I believe time from Oxford to a signal stop at Aynho Junction was about 21 mins. Top speed was reached just before Harbury Tunnel and fell off going down the rest of the bank. 36 was reached after leaving Warwick and before checks for turn to Stratford. On return, speed up the bank was in the mid 50's with a maximum through Banbury.” This paragraph, although chock full of facts and speeds doesn’t really do Lamiel justice. She is an amazing machine and goes, to spoonerise a well known phrase “like a well boiled icicle”.
Although Victoria – Stratford- Waterloo is not a huge distance, as railtours go, the pathing across the Western Main Line means that we have to leave Southall very early in the morning and get back there very late at night. This has two implications: the first, and most important, is that there’s a long time between leaving the depot with the tender full, and getting to the first water stop, ditto on the way back. We don’t use a lot of water whilst standing in a siding for an hour and a bit, but we do use some, and several long waits like that soon add up to a significant amount of water. So we are always glad to reach that first water stop.
The second implication? there’s a very long day between getting up to get the fire ready 2 hours before going off depot and going to bed after putting the engine away once we return. But that said the flip side of all the early starts, late nights, hard work, dirty overalls and smokebox char in your boots and eyes is that we get to work with such an amazing machine and come to know her very well. On every leg of every journey we have a member of the support crew on the footplate to ensure that there’s someone there who knows the engine and can offer informed input about technical matters, the footplate crews may not be familiar with the engine, and it’s too late to ask for advice at the station stop after you couldn’t remember how to work the injector, so we have someone on the engine at all times. It’s a big responsibility, to know that if anything goes wrong with the engine the first question you’ll be asked is “what were you doing about it?” or “why did you let that happen?” but it’s also a huge privilege to ride on the footplate at speed, she’s an awesome machine and well worth every lost minute of sleep.
Taking time out between water stops and footplate legs.
In the morning after a trip we have to dispose the engine properly ready for next time - clean the grate, empty the smokebox and ashpans, dig out the pit, charge the TPWS/OTMR battery, drain down anything which might be affected by frost, put the tools away, clean the living quarters in the coach ready for the next crew and generally leave everything as we'd like to find it.
Inside Southall depot, the fire's being cleaned, the smoke box is done and we'll dig out the pit when we've finished.
We are all quite glad that there’s now a gap of several weeks before Lamiel is due to work her next train. It’s not all rest and buns though, we have a number of jobs lined up – little fettling tasks which we’ve been putting off until we have a bit of time to work between jobs.
70013 Oliver Cromwell is also having a rest – the GCR have a special event planned for her on the 8th of November and she isn’t expected to work much before that. With the Five still out of traffic and the steam heating season upon us meaning that the diesels aren’t so much in demand, we should have a chance to catch up on both rest and work.
One job which is becoming increasingly urgent is getting the first of our two support coaches finished. At the moment we are hiring a coach which means that a proportion of the money earned for each railtour is going to pay for the coach. So we need to get our own coach finished. All in all there isn’t a lot to do to the first one, but it needs to be done.... it won’t do itself and unless it’s done we won’t have our own coach. So if you have a few hours to spare and know which end of a stick is sticky, come and help.