Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Day Out with Thomas: October 2011

The Battlefield Line ran their final Thomas events of the year on the 8th, 9th, 15th and 16th October 2011.

A view from the footplate of 'Thomas' as 'Daisy' slowly negotiates the crossover to Platform 1. This picture was taken late in the day on the 16th October, when 'Henry' (on the right) had already retired to the shed.

On the 9th October I was 'Driving Miss Daisy', the diesel railcar. Every time the service train arrives back at Shackerstone, the DMU dashes onto the single line. Originally, this allowed the locomotive of the service train to run round ready for its next trip to Shenton. However, most service trains in October were being 'top and tailed' so Daisy's foray onto the single line was being curtailed at the second bridge out from Shackerstone. The driver then changes ends and brings the DMU back to Shackerstone, usually platform 1. This allows Daisy's passengers to transfer to the service train on platform 2 for a trip all the way to Shenton.

The local authority have recently closed the footbridge at Shackerstone to await repairs, so at present access from platform 1 to platform 2 is solely via the sleeper crossing at the north end of the platforms. When the railway is closed, this footbridge forms part of a public footpath so local authority signs on the footbridge approach detail the detour which walkers must take.

'Daisy' performed flawlessly and I was able to carry out the 'diagram' as required. Although the ride is short, the passengers inevitably enjoy the 'extra treat' of a ride on the diesel railcar.

On the 16th October I was in charge of Thomas. Things didn't quite go to plan as there was no fireman and no trainee for 'Thomas' so I was faced with lighting up and oiling round on my own. Although the boiler was warm from the previous day's service, I hadn't obtained working pressure by 9.30 a.m. when 'Thomas' was booked to enter the station with the Fat Controller on the footplate and break a tape stretched across the line. Mick and Chris were in somewhat better shape on 'Sir Gomer' so we coupled the engines together and 'Sir Gomer' propelled 'Thomas' into the platform. By this time, 'Thomas' had 'made' reasonable pressure, so 'Thomas' was able to move independently, with Chris or Dave on the footplate with me. During the morning, we carried out the usual activities around the station. The Engine Races are always popular!

'Thomas' taking water. Chris checks the 'Bag' and Dave works the water valve.

We made a visit to the water column at the south end of platform 2 to top-off the side tanks ready for the 'Lunch with Thomas' service. Counter-intuitively, you turn the water valve on the column clockwise to open it. Perhaps this is an oddity of the Island of Sodor Railways? 'Bo-Co' (with the usual pair of wheels missing as our loco is actually a 'Bo-Bo') arrived from Shenton on Platform 1 and we backed 'Thomas' onto the train, which rapidly filled with passengers.

'Thomas' at the head of the 'Lunch with Thomas' service ready to depart from Platform 1 at Shackerstone.

Although he was unfamiliar with the engine, Mick came on board as fireman for the run. With a heavily-loaded 5-coach train and 'Bo-Co' as a trailing load, 'Thomas' was worked quite hard but Mike maintained good boiler pressure throughout the run. Quite a few passengers got on or off during our stop at Market Bosworth then it was on to Shenton. Because we were top and tailing, we had no more work to do for a while as 'Bo-Co' hauled the train back to Shackerstone.

Once back at Shackerstone, we spent the afternoon doing Engine Races, playlets (this time it was Jan who had water thrown at her), singing the 'Thomas' song and even giving Brake Van rides. 'Thomas' picked up the 'Tidmouth Dairies' milk tank wagon and a brake van and gave rides from the north end of Platform 2 to just past the signal box.

The last train of the day was 'Tea with Thomas' so we watered and stood clear whilst the main train arrived in Platform 2. 'Bo-Co' uncoupled from the train for we were to take it 'on our own'. Mick was to fire again but Danny (who'd been on 'Henry' all day) came as well, to give some pointers to Mick. We had a good run, stopping at Market Bosworth then continuing to Shenton. We ran round fairly smartly and returned to Shackerstone with a brief pause at Market Bosworth as the sky darkened.

Once uncoupled from the train, we shunted to Platform 1 opposite a spare locomotive spring which was lifted onto the footplate. Rather than go on shed, the locomotive was to be loaded onto a waiting low-loader for the road journey back to Llangollen.

By 6.30 p.m., it was already dark and a low-loader was in position, being prepared for hauling 'Thomas' aboard. The following day, 'Thomas' was returning to Llangollen by road.

Having cleaned the fire and filled the boiler, Adrian took over the engine and moved it to the north end. The transport contractor then positioned the low-loader trailer stradding the track so that 'Thomas' could be winched onto the trailer.

After a fairly heavy 12-hour shift, I was happy to 'Book Off' at this point and leave them to it.

My pictures taken on the 16th October are here.