Sunday, 6 July 2014

Manchester Aviation & Transport Fair, and first training session as guard on CVR

Contrary to the forecast, the weather this weekend was superb except for some heavy showers later on Sunday. That was good, because I had something planned for both days.

Saturday 5th July
Yesterday, the Aviation & Transport Fair at Manchester Airport Runway Visitor Park (RVP) was my destination.

I fired up the C90 and headed down to the RVP, a place where I spend a great deal of time conducting Concorde and Nimrod tours. This time, instead of my guide's uniform I was in 'civvies' as I wasn't going to work, but to simply enjoy the spectacle. As I arrived and was securing the bike, the commentator was announcing the arrival of the Emirates A380, the largest passenger aircraft in the world,  from Dubai.

The Emirates Airbus A380 Super Jumbo taxis past the Concorde hangar towards the airport terminals having just landed on runway 23R

Concorde looks out through the windows of her hangar at an array of classic cars 

Inside the hangar many traders and transport-related model societies had display stands

A handful of vintage light aeroplanes were invited to fly into the event. This one (flown in by Dave Wight) was a big part of my life for almost 35 years; Chipmunk G-BCSL. I had a share in this aeroplane and flew it regularly from 1979 until quite recently. 

Another aeroplane that used to be Barton based for many years is this ex-Fred Dunkerley Miles Gemini

The sun shone, the crowds came, and the atmosphere was one of happy enjoyment. I met many people from the world of aviation who I hadn't seen for ages, wandered round the stalls inside the hangar and out in the Park. As well as the Chippy and the Gemini, a Cessna Airmaster, Moraine Saulnier, and a Luscombe Silvair all flew in for the event. All five being tail-wheeled aeroplanes of course!

This lovely afternoon was rounded off with a pint with Malc at the Bird in Hand at Knolls Green on the way home.

Sunday 6th July
Last week the railway held its 'Velocipede Rally' where human-powered vehicles operated between Oakamoor and Froghall, and I was in Consall box as signalman to ensure (in communication with Howard at Froghall) that velocipedes and steam trains didn't meet!

Velocipedes at Froghall last weekend

This morning I started something completely different. It entailed an early start as I had to be at the Churnet Valley Railway at Cheddleton for my first day of training as a train guard by 08:00. I love being signalman in Consall box but signalling turns on the railway are averaging only about one a month and I want to do volunteering on the railway on some operating days when I'm not rostered in the 'box.

Rostered guard John was my mentor today, and we started by preparing the train. By attaching a hose to the filler pipes on the coach ends we filled the water tanks which supply toilets and wash basins, visually checked for leaking axle boxes, frayed generator belts, worn brake blocks, and any other obvious faulty external items before, following a vacuum brake test, the train departed ECS (Empty Coaching Stock) for Froghall hauled by the Polish tank and diesel 33102 'Sophie' to pick up the passengers.

The normal vacuum brake reading on the gauge in the guard's compartment is 23 inches (of mercury), but the brake is effective with anything above 15 inches. The vacuum is generated by the locomotive using its ejector if it's a steam locomotive, or vacuum pump if diesel or electric.

In the guard's compartment of the train is a handle which releases the brake vacuum completely to apply the train's brakes on all coaches in an emergency, and a large handwheel which applies the park brake. This latter is applied before the locomotive is uncoupled from the train (perhaps to run-around at the start and finish of the journey) and not released until the locomotive is coupled on again.  The vacuum in the reservoirs on each coach will keep the vacuum brake applied for at least 15 minutes in the absence of a vacuum-generating locomotive, after which the vacuum may 'leak off'. Hence use of the handbrake to ensure the train doesn't move.

The guard's compartment in the ex-BR Mk2 brake of our 5-coach train.  The hand brake wheel is in the foreground with a green disc placed on it to indicate that the brake is 'off'. When it's on, a red disc is placed on it as a reminder for the guard. The emergency vacuum brake handle (which, if activated, applies the brakes on the entire train) is the red handle  on top of the vertical black pipe next to the desk. The vacuum gauge is just out of sight at the top of the picture. 

The guard is responsible for the safety of his train and passengers. He does not check tickets (TTIs, Travelling Ticket Inspectors do that). One vital job is to place the tail lamp onto the back of the rear-most coach, as shown below, and of course it has to be re-located every time the train changes running direction and the loco(s) run round. We also entertain the passengers with a commentary over the public address system, especially on the highly scenic section on the Cauldon Branch up into the Staffordshire Moorlands with its fabulous views.

This is the tail lamp, which must always be carried by the last vehicle in the train. Signalmen, station staff, etc will check each train for the presence of the tail lamp to ensure that no portion of the train has broken away and been left behind

Exactly the same as our train today, yesterday's service leaves Cheddleton for Ipstones loop

Today was a long day finishing with an ECS run from Froghall to Leekbrook to run-round (including a stop at Cheddleton to take the steam loco off the train), then back to Cheddleton where we had begun our working day early this morning. We didn't leave the train until after 18:30 after three return passenger trips Froghall to Ipstones and back, the middle journey being the Sunday Dining Train where passengers in the dining coach enjoyed a full 3-course Sunday roast lunch with wine and aperitifs. The three return journeys along the entire length of the line, plus running ECS up the valley and back, resulted in a total of 70 miles running for the day.

So, first training day completed, a session as Consall signalman next Saturday, and maybe more guard training quite soon!

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