Friday, 22 July 2016

'Peak Forester', 2016

On Sunday 22nd May 2016, the 'Peak Forester' Railtour, operated by the Railway Touring Company, ran from London to Rowsley, the northern terminus of Peak Rail. The train was hauled by Bullied Light Pacific 34052 'Lord Dowding'. Actually, this locomotive was really 'West Country' class 34046 'Braunton' but re-numbered and re-named to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the 'Battle of Britain' since the original locomotive 34052 was scrapped at Barry. 34046 was restored by Locomotive 34046 Limited and is currently based at Locomotive Services Limited, Southall.

On previous railtours I've seen at Peak Rail (see 'Related posts' below), the Peak Rail 'top-and-tailed' service train has continued running all day, requiring this train to 'recess' in the Up Loop at Darley Dale whilst the rail tour arrived and then 'recess' in the Down Loop at Darley Dale when the railtour departed. More problematically, on arrival at Rowsley and having discharged its passengers, the stock of the railtour had to be shunted across to the loop so that the platform line was available for the 'top-and-tailed' Peak Rail service train to arrive and deport.

So, for the 2016 'Peak Forester' it had been decided that the 'top-and-tailed' Peak Rail service train would only operate three round trips (rather than the normal five) and that the 6-coach Peak Rail train would then be stabled in the yard at Rowsley, leaving the platform line and run round clear for the arrival, servicing and departure of the railtour.

I was rostered on 'Lord Phil' with Phil M. We operated the scheduled three round trips top-and-tailing with D9539 (Class 14) before assisting the diesel in stabling our train in the Heritage Shunters yard and disposing of our locomotive on the outside pit. We then moved forward to stable outside the shed, leaving plenty of room for the visiting locomotive to use the pit.

'Lord Phil' was stabled clear of the outside pit.

Although I've been rostered at Peak Rail on the dates of a number of previous Main Line Railtours, this was the first time I've been at Rowsley and able to watch the activities there. Quite a few spectators had gathered at Rowsley by the time we had the 'wire' that the Railtour was 'on time' joining Peak Rail metals.

Some of the spectators awaiting the arrival of the steam special.

Two lorries had arrived - a self-unloading Mercedes 8-wheel coal lorry with fuel for the return journey and an articulated tanker with water. I made my way back to Rowsley's single platform to watch the Railtour come to a stand very gently.

'Lord Dowding' arriving at Rowsley.

It had been some years since I'd been in charge of a Bulleid locomotive. I became familiar with 'Merchant Navy' class 'Canadian Pacific' at Birmingham Railway Museum, when she was used on 'Learn to be a Driver' courses. On completion of that duty, the locomotive spent a weekend as a static exhibit at a major exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre. Queues of visitors formed for the opportunity of standing on the footplate whilst museum staff gave explanations. I wasn't rostered for duty at the exhibition but, when I turned up as a visitor, I was invited to act as relief by the harrassed crew which I did, wearing a blue polka-dot summer dress and high heeled shoes! Later, I worked on 'West Country' class 'Taw Valley' both when she had a spell on 'Learn to be a Driver' courses at Birmingham Railway Museum and also at the Battlefield Line on both 'Learn to be a Driver' courses hauling a private passenger train along the full length of the line and on Service Trains. I really must try to write more about Bulleid's remarkable 'Pacifics'.

As soon as the train stopped, a number of people descended from the footplate (including Roger Hallett, who'd acted as the Peak Rail Conductor Driver) and a crowd of support crew appeared from the Support Coach marshalled as the first vehicle in the train. The locomotive was uncoupled from its train and drawn forward level with the water crane. Surrounded by support crew, the locomotive was watered both from the Peak Rail water crane and the road tanker, whilst a succession of fire irons was used to break up the firebed ready for dropping the fire.

34052 taking water.

The locomotive then shunted across to the 60-foot vacuum-operated turntable to be turned for the return journey. The inauguration of this turntable in 2010 (described in the post In a Spin with Pete Waterman) allowed Peak Rail to welcome steam Railtours. Now facing London, the locomotive moved gently to the outside pit to drop the fire. This was originally called the 'Turnback Pit' as it was intended for visiting engines arriving with a train and requiring fire-cleaning, coal, water and perhaps oiling before departing with another train, so the use 34052 made of it was historically correct. The Palfinger hydraulic grab crane on the coal lorry transferred its load to the Bullied tender whilst a new fire was laid in the firebox and ash was cleared from the sides of the wide firebox.

Coaling and ash clearance on the Turnback Pit.

Meanwhile, Rowsley's 'Class 31' had shunted across to the coaching stock, detached the support coach, run round to the other end of the support coach (using the 'short loop' formed by the main run round loop and the connections on the 'Third Line' by the Loading Dock) and re-attached the support coach to the London end of the train, ready for 34052. I presume the 'Class 31' was used as it was dual-fitted with both vacuum and air brake systems and it was desired to shunt the Support Coach using the air brake system.

All that now remained was for the 'refreshed' 34052 to shunt from the 'Turnback Pit' back to its train, ready for the marathon journey back to London. Well, I'd had a fairly early start, so I was content to say my 'goodbyes' at that point.

34052 on the run-round loop at Rowsley, heading back to its train.

Related posts

Reports on other main line rail tours I've seen at Peak Rail are listed below:-

2015: The Dimple, Darley and Dale.
2014: HST Charter to Peak Rail.
2013: The 'Peak Forester'.
2012: Steam Charter to Peak Rail.

All my posts on Peak Rail can be found here.

My pictures

Pictures in this article can be viewed uncropped by clicking on the image. To view in other resolutions or download select from the album below:-

'Peak Forester' 2016

All my pictures at Peak Rail can be found here.