Thursday, 30 September 2010

Two 'Cromptons'

On the left D6586, on the right 33021 in the North Yard at Shackerstone.

The Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon 'Type 3' diesel electrics became 'Class 33' but were often referred to as 'Cromptons' after the manufacturer of their electrical equipment, Crompton Parkinson.

My first 'hands on' experience with a 'Crompton' was on the Mince Pie Specials at the Battlefield Line with 33019 'Griffon' on 1st January 2008. That locomotive is still at Shackerstone but, for the recent Diesel Gala, two more 'Class 33' visited the line. Before these visitors left, it was decided to put them in service on the weekend of 25th and 26th September 2010. That meant that I was not needed for my rostered DMU turn on the 25th, but I was asked to turn up as a 'Conductor Driver' so that a driver from the owners' group could drive his '33' later in the day.

I arrived just as Simon was 'striking up' one of the vistors, 33021. Simon explained that the other '33' was being used for the service trains on Saturday but that a battery charge would be needed before we attempted an engine start. A new set of batteries were already on order and would be fitted before the locomotive left Shackerstone. With the two visitors coupled together, 33021 drew D6586 down to the charging point and Simon placed the locomotive on charge. With the handbrake on D6586 firmly applied, I then 'split' the two engines and drove 33021 through the station to the south end. The signalman had just arrived so Simon made arrangements for us to carry out the Line Inspection with our 'Light Engine'.

Simon invited me to drive, so we set off for an uneventful run down to Shenton where we changed ends and I drove back to Shackerstone. I seem to remember this dyed-in-the-wool steam enthusiast muttering "I could get used to this" at some point in the journey. Having signed off the line as fit-for-service at the signal box, we returned through Shackerstone station and buffered up to the waiting D6586.

The Sulzer 8LDA28 engine in the '33' is arranged for 'air start', like a number of main-line diesel electric designs. This means that the batteries are used to drive the Pre-Start Compressor to charge the main air receiver and this compressed air is then used to 'crank' the engine for starting. Simon showed me how another locomotive (in this case 33021) can be 'piped' to provide air for starting. Very soon, D6586 was started so it only remained to 'park up' 33021 ready to work the service on the following day and put D6586 on the waiting train (six coaches including the visiting Observation Car E1719E).

This took me a little longer than it should have done but we were ready to take the 11.30 a.m. service out a few minutes late with the cheerful secondman and Pete as a supernumary. We had a good trip down to Shenton, the presence of a number of permanent way restrictions making the driving more interesting.

At Shenton, once the locomotive was 'hooked-off', I drew forward into the headshunt and changed ends. When running round with a main-line diesel on the Battlefield Line, the driver always changes ends so as to be at the front of the movement. This involves changing ends three times for each run-round. It's possible to change ends by walking through the engine room although it's noisy and the gangways are narrow. On D6586 the engine room is clean, but I've been on some locomotives that are swimming in oil, so passing through the engine room in such cases is definitely not recommended. Most drivers prefer to avoid passing through the engine room so, when changing ends, they'll climb down at one end, walk along the ballast and climb back up at the other end.

Once attached to the train, I created the vacuum, watched for the temporary drop in vacuum as the guard carried out his brake continuity test and waited for the secondman to relay the Guard's 'Rightaway'. It was a bright, sunny morning so we had a pleasant trip back through the Leicestershire countryside, meeting numerous pheasants along the way who scurried along the track ahead and, as always, seemed very reluctant to move to a place of safety. Somehow, they always appear to escape unhurt. Ian, from the owners' group, was on the platform by the time we arrived back at Shackerstone, so I turned the locomotive over to him for the rest of the day and had a fairly easy time in the right hand seat.

For once, I was glad of an easy turn as I was faced with an 11-hour shift on the footplate of 68013 at Peak Rail the following day.

My pictures are here.