Monday, 21 February 2011

First 'Planet' duty of 2011

The railway at Manchester's Museum of Science & Industry (MoSI) opened for its 2011 season last Saturday, 19th February. Today was my first rostered day as fireman on Planet this year, so I decided to take a few photographs.

The morning was dismal and damp, becoming a little drier in the afternoon.

Click on the pictures below, then click again, for full-size images.

09:15, Lighting up! Diesel-soaked rags (from the bucket; you can see the splashes of diesel oil on the footplate and firehole doorway) on a bed of coal and the first pieces of wood burn in the firebox, before more wood (on the right) is placed on top, followed by a scattering of coal once the wood has 'caught', followed by more coal as the fire gets stronger

'Planet' on the disposal plate where we light her up. The green electric locomotive is used to move the train until 'Planet' has steam up. Beetham Tower in the background

The train is then moved to the inspection pit near the station for preparation

Peter Brown, Matthew Jackson (Railway Officer and today's rostered driver), and Colin Cooper (today's rostered Operations Manager) in the pit working on Planet's cylinders to cure a fault

By 10:00 the fire is looking healthy so we should be ready on time for the passengers at mid day

And here they come, filling the coaches for the first trip of the day

Vital brew-cans keeping warm on the firebox back plate, 85 PSI of steam (she blows off at 90).... Ready to go!

Amid clouds of steam and smoke 'Planet' departs the station

Passing the original Liverpool Road station site on the left, 1830 warehouse on the right

Approaching the Ordsall Lane platform where I will get down to change the points. The main line between Deansgate and Salford Crescent is on the left, the gates out onto the main line are ahead

Matthew waits while I change the points so we can reverse down the 'Pineapple Line' adjacent to Granada studios

Propelling the train down the 'Pineapple Line'

Looking back towards the junction we have just left. The line coming in on the left is the one we have just left; from the station to the Ordsall Lane platform

Approaching the end of the 'Pineapple Line', where we will reverse again and re-trace our route back to the station

Heading back towards the junction. Note the third rail to prevent the train coming off the viaduct and falling down the drop to the left if it de-rails

What every fireman wants - an even, thin, intensely hot fire with no holes in it. Keep it like this, firing little and often, and the engine will steam nicely

The last train is run at 16:00 or soon after, then the train is driven forward to the disposal plate where I throw out the fire (which I have carefully managed to be minimal by now, yet man enough to get us this far) and rake the ashes through from the firebox to the ash pan. I keep the blower on while doing this to suck the dust forward through the firetubes and prevent it covering me on the footplate! I also put the injector on to fill the boiler with water for tomorrow's crew.

Once the engine is fully disposed, the electric locomotive is attached and train is moved into the museum's Power Hall for the night. Final 'flight deck' checks are: gauge glasses isolated by their isolation cocks (otherwise, if one cracks, it will fill the power hall with steam), regulator closed, cylinder drain cocks open, injector and blower off, loco out of gear, hand brakes on, scotches (railway version of chocks) in.

Next Friday, I'll do it all again!

Friday Edit: No rain, even more passengers, and I had a few goes at driving this lovely engine.

As one powers though the 1830 station, regulator wide open, hair flying in the wind, exhaust beat barking ever more quickly as 'Planet' lifts up her skirts and flies as she gets into her stride, it is so disappointing to have to shut the regulator and start braking for the stop at the Ordsall Lane Platform. One is tempted to cry "next stop Lime St" and burst though the gates onto the main line! But the catch points would get us before we could do that.

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