In which I visit Newbury and have my first footplate rides on a Hall and a Castle and also ride on a fireless locomotive.
Clandestine Journey - Steam Days, August 1992.
Saturday 4 November
I decided to go to Newbury today. Tommy Williams gave me a lift up to the A4 and I hitched to Newbury - it took me 30 minutes to be picked up. I decided to have a trip on the Didcot line, we were hauled by a single car diesel W55035. I stopped at Compton. The country side is beautiful at this time of year - every tree is a different colour. I caught the steam train back to Newbury. This is an extra train on Saturdays and is the only steam-hauled passener train on the line which is about to be closed. The engine was 6159.
It was the Guy Fawkes rag this evening. We marched up as usual and put our emblem on the fire first. We managed to stop all olther Halls from getting theirs on as well, including Pats' flaming emblem. I think we won the fighting, our organization was better than last year and at one time we routed Pats. I have been punched up, my eye is bruised and my lip is swollen.
Monday 6 November
Went to Huntley and Palmers to see their two fireless locomotives. These were built in 1932 by Bagnall of Stafford (works No. of No. 1 - 2473). They work at 250 lbs pressure but the pressure through the cylinders is 80 lbs. through a reducing valve. The cab controls are simple - reversing lever, regulator, steam brake, hand brake and sanding levers. Latent heat is stored in water which is under pressure. One charging costs 16,000 lbs of steam which lasts for about 1½ hours. The cylinders are under the cab using Walschaerts valve gear. Tractive effort 11,500 lbs (0-4-0T). We were given a ride in No. 2. They make a peculiar chugging sound and get up quite a speed. The track isn't too good and it was quite rough. Total weight is 28 tons which included 2 tons of water. There are two water gauges in the cab which are inclined at an angle.
Huntley and Palmers locomotive with visitors, 1930s.
Sunday 12 November
I had a trip up to Fenchurch Street and back from Shoeburyness this morning on one of the new electrics. I went up on the 10.10 and back on the 12.25. As luck would have it, Harry Price was instructing the motorman so I had quite an interesting trip. The acceleration is phenomenal - we sailed up Laindon at over 50 mph with the controller shut off for half of the time. Coming back we reached 62 mph going up to Laindon with 12 cars. The actual driving is quite simple but the motorman must know a great deal about how it works. There was single line working from Bromley to Stephney.
Saturday 18 November
I went on a scooter race today. We caught the coach to Brighton where the race started at Preston Park. It was great fun although not taken very seriously. We seemed to take our scooter in the coach most of the time - we were disqualified towards the end of the race, at Earlswood, we had to fight our way through . The coach went on to Picadilly and I caught the train home. Mum and Dad were not expecting me and Dad thought I was a burglar.
Monday 20 November
My works plate from BR came this morning. It is cast bronze from C class 0-6-0 No. 31695. It was built by Neilson Reid in 1900, makers No. 5701.
I left Orpington at 14.30 but didn't get to Paddington until 16.15. I could have caught the 16.30 (Mayflower) fast train but I decided to catch the slower, steam hauled, 16.35. I had a talk with the driver and fireman at Reading and they said they would have let me have a ride on the foorplate. I shall go to Maidenhead tomorrow to have a trip on a Hall.
Tuesday 21 November
See Saturday 25 November
Thursday 23 November
The weather was fine today. It was frosty but clear. I cycled back this evening past the Reading diesel depot There were two engines, both 0-6-0 pnnier tanks standing by the bridge. One was quiet while the other was sizzling gently, the valves were just lifting. It made such a peaceful and quiet scene that I really didn't want to leave.
Friday 24 November
I came back again via the diesel depot. This time there was a tank engine and a Hall 4-6-0 4998 "Eynton Hall". the tender engine wasn't sizzling or showing any signs of life. I wonder if it was dead. I saw a freight train take the West Curve fromOxford, the light from the fire reflected upon the smoke made a fine sight.The sound was quite impressive - quite a loud noise until the driver notched her up.
Saturday 25 November
Following up on Monday's offer to ride the footplate I made two trips that week. I set out below my diary observations. I also published a more racy account in Steam Days: See Articles/Article1992_2.html
Tuesday 21 November Maidenhead to Reading on Hall class 4-6-0 No. 5938 "Stanley Hall"
Saturday 25 November Maidenhead to Didcot on Castle 4-6-0 No. 5087 "Tintern Abbey".
Train 16.35 ex-Paddington
The weather was very cold (even on the footplate) but visibility was good on both days although there was a little mist on Tuesday. It was dark and I had difficulty in spotting the signals because most are of the semaphore type.
This was the first time I had ridden on a tender engine and there wasn't so much room as I thought there would have been (more than on the tanks though). There is not nearly so much protection from the elements as on the tank engines. The fact that there was a gap vetween the engine and tender, covered by a violently moving fall plate makes firing more difficult (as I found out). The main difference between the LMSR and GWR engines is that the driver is on the right hand side on the GWR. As a complete contrast to the LMS tanks the GW engines were spotlessly clean, the external paintwork shone and the cab fittings were very clean, the red painted regulator handle and reversing wheel added to this effect.
There is very little difference between the cab controls of the Hall and the Castle engines. The Hall is fitted with a sight feed lubricator where the steam is drawn from the regulator header through a spiral arrangement of tubes, under the cab roof sheet, where the steam condenses and draws oil through a glass tube. There are several glasses, about three, arranged in a bank to the left of the reversing wheel. The Castles are fitted with a different type of lubricator. This has a dial and a needle which indicates when oil is being applied. Some Castles have, I think, the sight feed lubricator.
Both Castle and Hall are fitted with a live steam and an exhaust steam injector. The live steam is on the driver's side while the exhaust steam injector is fitted to the fireman's side. There are two controls for the live steam injector, the steam valve is on the boiler backplate and the water control is on the tender. On the Hall class the water control was direct while on the Castle adjustment was by means of a series of cranks to the spindle which is some way from the side of the tender. Castles fitted with an earlier type of tender have the normal type of water control. I tried the live steam injector and found it very smooth to handle. The exhaust steam injector has four controls, two steam and two water. The two steam valves are necessary in order to keep the injector functioning when the regulator is closed, one supplies live steam while the other provides exhaust steam. The two valves are to be found on the boiler back plate. The two water controls are to turn water on and off, on the tender, just inside the handbrake, and to control the flow. This latter is low down, close to the firebox between dampers and the fireman's seat.
Dampers are of the pull out type in the floor just to the fireman's side of the firehole door. There were four of these. On the driver's side and projecting from the firebox backplate are the brake valve which is off when facing the driver, two ejectors (the large ejector has a bigger handle) both of which have a pull out movement and blower valve which is below and to the right of the brake cylinder drain cocks. Back and front sanding levers are on the driver's side.
On the fireman's side there are the steam pressure gauge and steam heating gauge while on the driver's side is the vacuum gauge which gives the amount of vacuum in the train pipe and the brake reservoir. The speedometer is between the reversing screw and the firebox.
The tender of the Castle had a metal back plate through which the coal falls on to a level with the footplate via a small aperture - difficulty of being blocked by large lumps of coal, The tender of the Hall was not enclosed, the coal being much more exposed. This increased the tendency for the dust to fly. Both tenders are fitted with a water scoop. This is operated by turning a screw similar to the hand brake being in a similar position on the fireman's side. Fire irons are kept in a recess in the tender on the fireman's side.
When considering how an engine is being worked there are four factors to be taken into account, two of which concern the driver and two concern the fireman. The driver used a half open regulator and 17% cut off. I could not see the actual cut off, this figure was given to me by the driver. He told me that it was possible to drive these engines with full open regulator and shorter cut off but with a heavy train this makes much more work for the fireman. The fireman has to watch his steam and water gauges. On both trips, with a different fireman, there was a tendency to sacrifice the water level in order to maintain a full head of steam. The steam prssure was kept just below 225 lbs. per squre inch but the water level fluctuated. On the Hall the water level was kept to within an inch of the top of the glass. On the Castle, however, an inexperienced fireman had not prepared the fire properly and at Twyford we only had half a glass of water. However, the chisle bar was run through the fire and she came round so as to be blowing off at Reading even with the live steam injector on.
The first impression is how high up the footplate is above the platform. The second thing that struck me very forcibly was the absence of doors. This doesn't matter until the engine gets up speed. There seems to be more room than on the tank engines, probably because there are no tanks extending into the cab. It is possible for a third man to stand by the spectacle plate in front of the fireman's seat. The crew said that this would be the best place for me as I would be out of the way of the weather. However, I preferred to stand behind the driver to that I could see how the engine was being driven. There is more room to manoeuvre fire irons than in the LMS tanks because the cab isn't enclosed. The metal plate in between engine and tender certainly makes things more difficult for the fireman. I was allowed to put some coal on and had great difficulty in keeping my balance beacuse my righ foot was on this plate. The fireman said that he soon became used to it. The ride was not too smooth, the Castle seemed rougher than the Hall but perhaps this was because we were going faster - 70 mph when there was a restriction to 50 mph. (we were on the Down Slow line) I didn't know the line very well and could only pick out a few landmarks. I didn't realise when we were going through Sonning Cutting while I was completely lost after Pangbourne. I don't know how the driver knew we were approaching Goring troughs, we seemed to be going through the same blackness but he knew when to let down the scoop. This is done by turning the handle in an anti-clockwise direction. We didn't take much water. I looked down to see if I could see the spray from under the tender but I couldn't see anything.
Firing was done in rounds but I didn't study it much. As on all Western engines the fire was made up well above the firehole ring. They had some difficulty on the Saturday having had to start with a black fire due to bad preparation. The coal was good, smallish lumps and briquettes on the first trip - just abuot right for firing. On the Castle, however, the coal wasn't too good - there was a great deal of slack and some large lumps which necessitated frequent use of the coal pick. On Saturday the dust was put to the back of the fire where it tended to cake into a black mass. Eventually the fireman broke up the back part with a chisle bar which livened up the fire considerably and greatly improved steaming. The GW coal shovels are much larger than the LMS ones. The well built up fire means that it is difficult to get coal to the front, this is done by bouncing the coal off the ring or the hump of blackish coal at the back. Injectors were used when the pressure was rising in order to stop the safety valves from lifting and they were used mainly after a round of firing. The shovelling plate is larger than on the LMS engines and is attached by a chain to the door handle. It was thus easily opened and closed. The fireman of "Stanley Hall" used this religiously, closing it after every shovelful, in fact he hardly closed the doors at all. This has the advantage in that one can see the condition of the fire without having to open the doors. I tried doing this with every shovelful and found it quite easy to do. The flap is closed with the left hand while the right hand filled the shovel with coal ready for the next firing. The larger shovelling plate makes it impossible to fire with it across the door as on the LMS. I found firing more difficult because we were doing about 70mph at the time.
The GWR ATC (Automatic Train Control) does not jar as much upon the nerves as does the LTS type. A bell sounds when the road is clear and a hooter for a caution. As on the LTS the driver placed full confidence on this apparatus as when he turned his back to take water and came over to the other side to talk to me.
I didn't time either of the runs but we were on time out of Reading and into Didcot. I think we were a minute or so late into General. Afterwards I rode in a diesel multiple unit and the difference was most noticeable. Coming out from Didcot the coach was too warm and I nearly fell asleep - I would still prefer to travel on the footplate!
This seems an appropriate place for Cuneo's wonderful painting "Clear Road Ahead" on the footplate of a Castle
Thursday 30 November
A complimentary copy of the Railway Magazine came this morning. My article is published on Page 836. I feel quite pleased with myself.
See Experiences of a Temporary Fireman