Saturday, 23 April 2011

A hot day on the footplate!

Good Friday saw me on the early train from Wilmslow into Manchester for a day on the footplate of the replica 'Planet' at the Museum of Science & Industry. As I walked onto the site at about 09:00, this sight greeted me....

Agecroft No.1 in the bay spur at MoSI

0-4-0 saddle tank 'Agecroft No.1' having been fully restored at MoSI is almost ready to enter service. This powerful little locomotive once moved 1,000 ton coal trains between Agecroft colliery, north of Manchester, and the nearby power station. Once in service at MoSI it will relieve pressure on 'Planet' in running passenger trains, and allows MoSI more flexibility in hiring out one of the two locos to other heritage railways.

But this Friday, I'm firing this locomotive.....

Replica Stephenson's 1830 'Planet' in the station at MoSI, Good Friday 2011

On a hot day like Friday was, it was good to work on Planet's open footplate. In the picture above she is waiting in the platform while passengers de-train and the next ones board. The 'new' coal we are using (it comes from near Coventry) produces a lot of smoke even (as here) with the firehole door open and the blower on to give some 'top air' to ignite more of the gasses given off by the burning coal instead of letting them escape up the chimney as thick clag. Just like a car engine, black smoke indicates a 'rich mixture' with unburnt fuel coming out of the exhaust.

The change of coal was mostly for Agecroft's benefit, as the much smaller lumps of the Polish coal we used before on 'Planet' would be sucked straight out of Agecroft's chimney by its fiercer exhaust! Trouble is, the big lumps of new coal have to be broken up with the coal hammer to fit Planet's smaller firebox - hot and dusty work on the loco footplate on a day like today!

'Planet' in the hazy Manchester sunshine, the Beetham Tower in the background

FOOTNOTE: For a really hot day on the footplate, wind forward to 3rd June 2011. This was my second duty firing 'Agecroft No.1', and it was a 28 degree C day! In Agecroft's small and enclosed cab the temperature was almost unbearable, especially when the firedoors were opened for fireing. My water bottle was drained almost every trip, and I had to nip off the footplate at the station to replenish it.


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