Tuesday, 22 December 2015

'Santa Specials' at Peak Rail - Christmas 2015 (part 2)

In an earlier post here, I described the service on 6th December 2015. I was there again on Sunday, 20th December 2015, this time with Phil M. as fireman. Having prepared 'Lord Phil', we moved across to Rowsley platform road and coupled onto the south end of the 7-coach train, giving us over an hour to perform 'carriage warming'.

Steam heating the stock prior to the first departure from Rowsley.

This time, the 'Class 31' had been left in the shed overnight but it came across and coupled up to the north end of the train to 'top and tail' in time for the first departure, which was a little delayed waiting for missing passengers.

We were still enjoying mild weather for December and the sun shone for most of the day but there was a wind which rather chilled the driver's side of the cab.

All tickets on the 'Santas' are pre-booked and we were told that all four trains were 'Sold Out'. In addition, Sunday Lunch was being served in the Palatine Set and, again, all seats were booked.

Of course, Santa Claus was there to welcome his young visitors, together with a reindeer, a cow and Peppa Pig.

Santa greets a young visitor.

Once again a choir from Matlock Musical Theatre sang Christmas Carols on the platform at Rowsley as passengers boarded the train. Initially, there were six singers but other members strengthened the group later.

Carol Singers from Matlock Musical Theatre.

Phil drove the first trip while I fired. I seem to be loosing strength in my arms so that even firing the small grate on an 'Austerity' is getting harder. On the right-hand drive 'Austerity', the fireman should work from the left of the footplate, preferably using his right arm to push the shovel blade, leaving the left hand to support the shaft of the shovel. Unfortunately, I'm naturally left handed but on the small footplate of an 'Austerity' there's not enough room to fire from the 'wrong' side. Originally, most locomotives were right hand drive. The Great Western Railway remained right hand drive to the end, as did many countries which adopted right-hand running on double track. But in Britain, we've always used left-hand running on double track so the sighting of signals is easier if the driver is on the left and more modern locomotives tended to be left-hand drive. Since both left-hand and right-hand locomotives were in use (even within the same class sometimes), it was advantageous for fireman to be able to fire from either side - indeed, some driver's insisted that fireman stayed on their own side of the cab.

A few years ago the consummate railway professional Dick Hardy wrote to me about a day he'd spent firing 'Port Line' on a main line steam special, saying he found the firebox about a foot longer than he remembered from when he was younger. I know exactly what he meant.

I drove the three remaining trips and we worked through the day without incident which, of course, you always aim to do.

Rowsley Station.

I don't think any of our departures from Rowsley were on time and the various speed restrictions don't give much scope for making up time 'on the road' but we made sure we didn't lose further minutes. There's a short video clip showing our final approach to Matlock Town, passing the Sainsbury's car park here. After watching the clip, the Back Button will return you to this blog.

On the final return from Matlock Town, Phil made sure our red tail lamp was lit. When we stopped at Darley Dale, the illuminated Christmas decorations showed up well.

The last Down train at Darley Dale, showing the illuminated decorations.

To be able to check the gauges in the gathering gloom, Phil had donned his head-mounted 'miner's lamp'.

Flash photography shows Phil (with 'miner's lamp' ) checking the gauges.

On arrival at Rowsley, we received the single line token from the station staff so that we could uncouple from the train and make our way, via the South End ground frame, to the loop and third line. At the North end, we then passed the token back to the diesel crew, allowing them to release the North End ground frame so that the 'Class 31' could make its way to the shed. We took 'Lord Phil' to the siding outside the shed, so that Chris could coal our bunker using the Bucket Loader. We then made our way to No. 1 road where we disposed and left 'Lord Phil' over the outside pit.

My pictures

Peak Rail 'Santa' Trains - 2015.