Thursday, 15 September 2016

'Flying Scotsman' at Peak Rail

In the post 'Flying Scotsman' at Birmingham Railway Museum, I briefly described my time with the locomotive at Tyseley between 1992 and 1995.

The commercial venture operated by the locomotive's then owners Sir William McAlpine and Pete Waterman was not successful and, on 23rd February 1996, the locomotive was sold, for 1.5 million pounds, to Tony Marchington, who then funded extensive repairs at Southall costing 1.45 million pounds.

'Flying Scotsman' at Southall.

When I'd last seen 'Flying Scotsman' in 1995, the locomotive was in its British Railways form as 60103. I may not have particularly liked the locomotive's appearance but at least it was historically correct. What emerged from Southall in 1999 was a confection combining 'Kylchap' exhaust and double chimney, LNER livery, the running number 4472, no smoke deflectors and air, rather than the original vacuum, brakes.

After a series of successful runs between King's Cross and York, which attracted widespread public interest, Tony Marchington "fulfilled a dream" of bringing the locomotive to his native Derbyshire. The locomotive appeared (on a low loader) at the 1999 Hartington Moor Steam Rally. Then, at the end of July 2000, the locomotive ran at Peak Rail during a 9-day 'Extravaganza'.

Although the initial hope had been to run service trains between Rowsley and Matlock, the locomotive's 22-ton axle load was not permitted over Bridge 35 (the bridge over the Derwent on the Darley Dale side of Matlock Riverside station). This resulted in southbound workings 'stopping short', north of the Derwent Bridge and, of course, there was no facility for a locomotive to 'run round' its train at this point. As a result, 'top and tail' working was adopted using a locomotive each end of the passenger train with 'Flying Scotsman', facing north, at the north end of the train and Peak Rail's 0-6-0T, facing south, at the south end of the train.

Since 'Flying Scotsman' had only air brakes, the vacuum-braked Peak Rail coaching stock could not be used and a suitable rake of dual-braked coaches was hired-in from West Coast Trains. Southbound workings would be vacuum braked, controlled from the 0-6-0T and northbound workings air braked, controlled from 'Flying Scotsman'. The dual-braked coaches duly arrived via the main-line connection at Matlock, hauled by one of Tyseley's main-line certified 'Pannier' tanks, which sat in the sidings at Darley Dale until it was time to take the dual-braked coaches back at the end of the event.

Because of its axle loading, 'Flying Scotsman' didn't have the option of arriving via the main line connection, but negotiated the less-than-ideal road system by low loader to reach Rowsley. The situation was complicated because of the crowds of sightseers lining the route, anxious to see this famous locomotive.

I was rostered on seven of the nine days of the 'Extravaganza', either as Driver or Conductor Driver on 'Flying Scotsman' or Driver on the 0-6-0T 'Austerity' attached to the other end of the train.

Whilst it was good to be re-united with the engine, I found the double-chimney, perched right at the front of the smokebox, looked rather unbalanced, an appearance not even relieved by the fitting of continental 'blinkers' carried as 60103. Later in her preservation career, the smoke deflectors were restored (presumably to help 'lift' the exhaust steam, rather than for aesthetic reasons). And, for me, no matter how much steaming might be improved by the 'Kylchap' exhaust and double chimney, these alterations jarred with the lined LNER livery and running number 4472. Whilst the way vacuum brakes were fitted to locomotives produced at Doncaster could present challenges (the design of the brake rigging sometimes allowed brake blocks to unexpectedly stick 'on'), vacuum brakes were historically part of the fundamental design so I was prejudiced against air brakes, particularly when the air was generated by a Polish steam-driven air compressor mounted between the frames. Although the compressor was not visually intrusive, it produced a very foreign-sounding slow, repetitive 'thump - chuck - thump - chuck'. Any form of conservation inevitably introduces compromises (I think 'Flying Scotsman', an A3 Class, has had an A4 boiler for years).I think I've commented before that, whilst I believe an owner has a right to turn out an engine in any style or livery he chooses, it doesn't mean I have to like it.

It was a very hectic period, with unprecedented crowds. Having been in charge of the recent repairs, Roland Kennington was there with others from Southall. I'd first met Roland Kennington back in 1992, when he came with 'Flying Scotsman' to Tyseley. In 2000 he did a number of driving turns at Peak Rail but, despite his experience, needed a Conductor Driver from Peak Rail on the footplate. I hadn't expected to like Tony Marchington, but found we got on quite well. Having spent all that money on the locomotive, it seemed rather sad that he was not even allowed to drive in traffic, except under supervision. I was flattered when he asked if I would teach him to drive but Roland decided that it would be more approriate if he carried out the instruction.

One day, an already-frail Alan Pegler was re-united with 'Flying Scotsman' and this was the only time I met him. On another occasion, I chatted to an elderly gentleman of, I think 98, who had been a Camden driver. I offered to show him the footplate of 'Scotsman' and he immediately agreed. His family were horrified, saying his mobility was far too bad to allow that. But I'd seen the gleam in his eye, so was unsurprised when he virtually skipped up the cab steps. He sat in the fireman's padded bucket seat and we chatted until it was time to leave.

Another day, Tony Marchington chartered the train for an evening meal with his large circle of friends and decided that his special guests would be favoured with a visit to the footplate. So we made unexpected use of Gresley's Corridor Tender, bringing guests to and from the footplate through the rather narrow passageway in the tender, as we made our majestic progress up and down the line. The contrast between the gaiety and bright lights in the restaurant car and the darkness and noise on the footplate was remarked upon by a number of guests. We weren't completely in the dark on the footplate because, after 1995, 'Flying Scotsman' had been fitted (or re-fitted) with electric lighting powered from a steam turbo-generator (there's a brief description of this type of equipment here.

Unfortunately, I don't have photographs of this period, but I did purchase commercial DVDs, one of which captured an interesting occurrence. I was firing the locomotive, prior to departure from Rowsley - not very demanding on such a gentle working provided you've experience of firing a wide firebox fitted with a 'Great Northern' 'Trap Door' firehole door (I've talked about the 'Trap Door' here). Suddenly, there's a muffled 'thump' and a tinkling. Jan looks up, very casually, to confirm that the fireman's side gauge glass has broken.

On a simple gauge glass, rupture of a glass would discharge water and steam through the broken ends, until the fireman was able to isolate both the steam cock and the water cock (protecting his hands whilst so doing with a jacket or sacking). However, 'Flying Scotsman' was fitted with an improved type of gauge glass incorporating an automatic shut-off ball valve as part of each isolating cock. These had operated correctly on breakage of the gauge glass so that I could manually isolate the cocks without difficulty. I then 'blew down' the driver's side gauge glass, to build some confidence that this glass was giving a true reading. A Great Western fireman would have been expected to replace a failed glass in a couple of minutes (Great Western engines normally had only one gauge glass, plus 'try cocks' as a backup). However, when I enquired about a spare gauge glass I was told we'd run with one gauge glass for the rest of the shift. So that's what we did.

After 'Flying Scotsman' completed its visit to Peak Rail, the story of this locomotive continued, not always happily. There's a potted history, up to 2013, here. When I can, I'll update that.