Monday, 25 June 2012

A Day on the Footplate (2)

Sunday 10th June 2012

68013 standing on the outside pit at Rowsley during preparation.

I was rostered as the steam driver at Peak Rail on Sunday 10th June 2012. I'd had a fairly demanding turn at the Battlefield Line the previous day (described here) so I was almost grateful that we'd only be doing half the work, since we'd be top-and-tailing with 'Penyghent' on the service train.

I arrived at Rowsley Shed before 7.00 a.m. to find 68013, Peak Rail's regular performer, on the outside pit. Phil, the booked fireman, had steam raising well in hand. We'd been advised that the Fireman's side injector was unserviceable and that we'd have to manage with the Driver's side injector.

The Fireman's side injector.

The 'Austerity' tank engine is fitted with two Gresham & Craven under cab floor mounted vertical injectors. It's a pretty reliable arrangement but, because of the importance of the injector, two are fitted to the engine. However, Phil and I were quite confident about having only one available during the day. The only drawback is that the water cock and steam cock for the serviceable injector were on the driver's side. Most of the time, the driver can work the injector to the fireman's instruction but, if the driver's busy, in the middle of braking for instance, the fireman may have to reach round the driver to operate the controls himself.

I busied myself oiling round and examining the locomotive. I was almost grateful (again) that I'd only six wheels to worry about, compared with sixteen the previous day.

The various duties of the driver and fireman in getting a locomotive ready for traffic are referred to as 'Preparation' and I've described them in more detail in an earlier post here. Although this article features the same locomotive and the same railway, at that time the locomotive was known as 'Royal Pioneer' and preparation took place at Darley Dale, not Rowsley.

Oiling round and examining a locomotive means that the driver has to get 'Up Close and Personal' with all the various bits. There's a set of photographs here showing an 'Austerity' tank in some detail.

There's a bit more about Preparation in other posts such as On the Footplate (Part 1).

Just after 8.00 a.m. Rob presented us with the Train Staff for the Rowsley - Church Lane single line section, allowing us to come off shed light engine and make our way down to Church Lane. Rob had gone ahead of us by road so, as we approached, he opened the level crossing gates and called us across. I surrendered the Train Staff to Rob and we carried on to the Up Platform at Darley Dale to await our driving experience trainee.

Our trainee soon appeared and was keen to begin. Rob had travelled to Darley Dale by road and he opened the Darley Dale level crossing for rail traffic and called us across. This time, we collected the Train Staff for the Darley Dale - Matlock section and this authorised us to occupy the single line on which our trainee would operate. I've previously written about driving experience courses at Peak Rail here. On the 10th June we spent two hours pottering up and down between Darley Dale and the Derwent bridge on the approach to Matlock Riverside (currently the southern limit of driving experience running). Most of the time was spent by the trainee actually driving but there was time for explanations about the features of locomotive design of interest to the trainee and a session learning about (and practising) firing.

At about 10.45 a.m., the signalman at Darley Dale opened the gates and 'gave us the road' so that our trainee could drive into the Down platform, where his family were waiting to congratulate him. We said goodbye to our trainee and, with Church Lane's Outer Home 'Off' we carried on to Church Lane. The Inner Home came 'Off' and I collected the single line staff for Church Lane - Rowsley from the Signalman as we passed the box. We continued up the bank to Rowsley and our six-coach train.

As we approached the coaching stock, I could see that the train tail lamp was 'on the floor' with the red lens pointing towards us, meaning that I had to stop short and wait for the Guard to call us on. It looked as if the Guard was still at the other end of the train, supervising the coupling-on of 'Penyghent'. After a minute of two, the Guard returned, turned the lamp away and called us on with a handsignal. Phil 'tied us on' and we also topped-up our water tank.

The nicely-restored 'Shell Electrical Oils' tank wagon used as a water tank at the south end of Rowsley station.

There's no permanent locomotive watering facility at the south end of Rowsley, so the nicely-restored 'Shell Electrical Oils' tank wagon has been adapted as a water tanker and positioned opposite the point where the steam locomotive normally comes to a stop. A small-diameter water main feeds the tank through a ball valve and a portable petrol-engined water pump is used to feed the fire hose which delivers water to the locomotive.

We'd agreed that Phil would drive the first round trip so I busied myself preparing the fire for departure. This involved thickening the firebed a little (without causing black smoke at the chimney) and bringing the boiler pressure up to near the blowing-off point without actually blowing off. Judicious use of the driver's side injector brought the water level in the gauge glass near the top, with a little space left in case (as often happens) departure was not quite on time.

Once I'd relayed the Guard's 'Rightaway' to the driver, I looked ahead to confirm that the line was clear on my side and relayed that to the driver. There's always a temptation to fire at this point but it should be resisted. In the first place, until the exhaust steam blast effect has raised the firebox temperature, adding coal just has a chilling effect. Secondly, with Slam Door stock there is no central locking and passengers are sometimes foolish enough to try to board or alight from the moving train. With the platform on the fireman's side at Rowsley, I prefer the fireman to be looking back for possible trouble. The Guard should also be checking the platform at this stage, so the driver should keep an eye on the Train Pipe Vacuum - a sudden loss of vacuum may mean that the Guard has 'put the Setter in' (opened his brake valve).

When 'Penyghent' on the rear of our train had passed clear of the platform ramp, I reported "Clear of the Platform" to the driver and checked the line ahead. Leaving Rowsley, there's a foot crossing which should be checked and, provided there's nothing untoward, a "Crossing Clear" report given to the driver before picking up the shovel and repairing some of the damage that our departure may have caused to the fire. With the regulator open, thre's plenty of air being drawn through the fire so extra coal will not have to much chilling effect and the increased combustion rate will prevent black smoke.

Alerted to our approach by telephone immediately prior to our departure from Rowsley, the signalman has to leave the signal box, operate four gates from the ground (as traffic permits), bolt the gates and return to the box to clear the signal. Both driver and fireman should now be looking for Church Lane's Up Home Signal. The rapid re-growth of foliage at this time of year means that, even with a regular programme of 'cutting back', the signal may be hard to sight. Even with a clear signal, the driver has to reduce speed to comply with the restriction over the level crossing. The more modest demand for steam may allow the fireman to start an injector at this point to replenish some of the water used in leaving Rowsley.

The Single Line Staff for the Church Lane - Rowsley section has to be surrendered to the signalman as we pass the box. At Church Lane, the signalman comes onto the narrow landing at the front of the box (principally intended to facilitate window cleaning) to receive the staff. For this section, the staff is placed in a pouch attached to a ring or hoop. Either the driver or the fireman may perform the exchange, but it's important that the hoop is held square to the signalman, at a height the signalman can reach and without the hoop wavering about. Similarly, the signalman should not attempt to 'pluck' the hoop from the engineman using fingers - that's an invitation for a broken finger. Rather, a clenched fist and extended arm should 'spear' through the centre of the hoop, allowing the hoop to travel up the arm towards the shoulder.

The timetable only allows 5 minutes for the Rowsley - Darley Dale section, so the driver will need to use steam once past Church Lane Box. The driver needs to control the approach to the platform at Darley Dale quite carefully to be able to stop in the right place without jerking the train, using the Vacuum Brake Application Valve to partially destroy the Train Pipe Vacuum.

I put the injector on again, whilst the driver was not using steam, and made a light firing as we stood in the station, closing the damper to discourage 'blowing off'. Once station duties were complete, the Stationmaster "gave the tip" to the waiting signalman who opened the two long level crossing gates and 'pulled off' our signal - an upper-quadrant wooden bracket actually mounted on the platform. The Guard gave the 'Rightaway' which I passed on to the driver, together with my confirmation that I'd checked both ahead and back along the train (it's not unknown for the 'Rightaway' to be given when there's still a door open) then I opened the back damper to allow the steam blast to draw more air through the fire to increase the steaming rate. Although the line is virtually level here, it needed a fair bit of steam to get our trailing load of around 350 tons rolling.

I usually salute any waiting motorists to acknowledge their having had to wait for us. A few drivers scowl in response at the enforced delay but most give a friendly wave in reply. The single line staff for the Darley Dale - Matlock section has to be collected from the Darley Dale signalman. Here, the signal box is at ground level so the signalman stands on the crossing holding up the staff which either the driver or fireman collects by reaching down and scooping up the hoop. This staff doesn't have pouch - the staff is attached to the hoop by a short chain.

With the platform on the fireman's side, like Rowsley, I like the fireman to be checking the train as we leave. Of course, if the engine is operating the other way round (which is possible now we have a turntable) or if we're using different motive power which is left hand drive rather than right, either the driver has to check back for himself or, if the driver wants to keep his attention on the line ahead, the fireman has to move across to the driver's side to keep a lookout.

In the old days, it was often said that the only time a fireman was allowed to stand on the driver's side of the cab was when keeping a lookout leaving a platform on the driver's side. Tales abound of drivers taking a piece of chalk and drawing a line down the middle of the cab and instructing their fireman with a curt "That's your side of the cab - this is mine". An old Newton Heath driver I knew insists he cured such a driver in this way:-

"One week, I was marked to fire to a real curmugeon of a driver on a diagram covering a Fast from Manchester Victoria to Leeds with a '5X'. This driver would hardly say a word the whole shift except to rebuke me and he wouldn't allow the fireman to even stand on his side of the footplate. Well, after three miserable days like this, I'd had enough. On the fourth day, I got a really good fire on before we left Victoria, then I perched myself on the little tip-up seat on my side of the cab. He was working the engine quite hard so, after a few minutes, the pressure started to creep back from the red line, but I just stayed on my little seat. I could see my driver keep looking at the pressure gauge and he didn't look happy but he didn't say anything so I stayed on my seat. As the pressure continued to fall, eventually my driver had to speak and, not in the politest language, asked me what I thought I was playing at. Looking as innocent as possible, I got up, opened the firedoors and studied the fire before announcing 'My side of the fire's alright. It must be your side'. The driver treated me to an evil look but said nothing, so I picked up my shovel and set about making matters right. Do you know, I never had any more trouble with that driver after that?"

Having watched our train clear of Darley Dale crossing, I reported "All following" and turned my attention to the fire, adding a reasonable 'charge' now there was a reasonable steam blast through the firebed. I'd finished firing in time to look ahead to the first foot crossing in Redhouse Cutting. There's a Whistle Board here (a white 'W' on a black rectangular sign). I usually wait for the driver to whistle before calling out "Crossing Clear" although if I'd spotted people who might be at risk, I'd alert the driver as soon as I'd sighted them.

Gradient Diagram Ambergate - Bakewell

There's a temporary speed restriction going 'down the bank' to Matlock so the regulator was closed before long to allow the train to roll. With steam not being used, the boiler pressure tends to rise so we put on the driver's side injector to prevent blowing off. We passed another three Whistle Boards and I provided a 'second pair of eyes' at each one. There's a fixed distant signal on the approach to Matlock Riverside which originally was a reminder that the driver was approaching the end of the Peak Rail line. Now, of course, we normally run through the former run round loop at Riverside and continue to Matlock Town.

I tend to use the distant as a reminder to get another decent 'charge' on the fire to give it a chance to burn through before we tackle the final gradient into Matlock Town. At the approach to Riverside, we cross the River Derwent and the gradient changes from downhill to adverse requiring the use of steam so there's usually sufficient blast to prevent black smoke. Because of the signalling work in progress in connection with the construction of the new Matlock Riverside signal box, the speed is limited to 5 m.p.h. over the former run round. Once clear of the 5 m.p.h. 'slack' there's the final assault (where 10 m.p.h. is permitted) up the 1 in 170 gradient into our platform at Matlock Town. The boiler pressure held up well and, as we came to a stand, the injector went on again.

The new Peak Rail rules call for the single line staff to be carried on the leading engine if the train is worked by more than one so, in preparation for the return leg, I walked down the platform to surrender the staff to the secondman on 'Penyghent' who'd walked to meet me halfway.

Meanwhile, Phil had 'set the lamp right'. We'd travelled to Matlock with one lamp on the chimney for an 'Ordinary Passenger Train' - a Class 2 (or, when I was young before the 4-character headcodes were introduced, a Class B). Phil had moved this lamp to the right buffer and inserted the red shade since proper locomotive lamps have a removeable red filter so as to be able to do duty as either head lamp or tail lamp. There's a bit more about lamps here.

'Penyghent' was going to do all the work going back to Rowsley so a few shovelfulls spread across the grate stopped the fire getting too thin. Later in the journey, I made another light firing and added a drop of water to the boiler to keep the level up. We arrived back at Rowsley in fairly good shape. We didn't need to take water - with top-and-tail working we generally take water every second trip.

We made another four uneventful round trips during the day, with Phil firing and me driving. At the end of the day, both 'Penyghent' and 68013 uncoupled from the train and made their way across to the shed. Phil and I agreed we'd had a good day.

I was back at Peak Rail on Wednesday, 20th June 2012 again paired with Phil but this time with the 'Class 31' on the other end of the train. All went according to plan and this time I took a few pictures which are here.