Monday, 19 September 2016

A busy day hauling passengers at Urmston

Two weeks ago I was passed as a passenger driver at Urmston & District Model Engineering Club's Abbotsfield Park track.

Last Sunday I was rostered signalman in Consal 'box on the Churnet Valley Railway so missed the Urmston meeting. Yesterday was my first full day at the club as a qualified passenger driver, so I gave 'Alfred' (my 3.5" gauge Quarry Hunslet locomotive) a day off and Malc and I headed to Urmston on a lovely sunny morning with me hoping to do some passenger train driving (Malc is not yet passed as a passenger driver, but that can't be far off).

These pictures are from and copyright of Jason Lau, and are excellent as usual. Please click on any photgraph for a larger image.

It's early morning. A member's car is about to reverse to unload a locomotive onto the pneumatically-powered variable-height unloading table. Note the bridge is in place over the outer track (our 'main line') to allow the locomotive to reach the preparation bays, via a couple of traversers.

The club's electric locomotive 'Spirit of Urmston' (driven here by Craig Deardon) was already carrying passengers. This loco provides the passenger service before any steam locomotives have been prepared for running, and does the same at the end of the day as the steam locomotives are disposed. However, it was so busy yesterday because of the lovely weather that 'Spirit of Urmston' helped out during middle of the day as well. 

As part of my 'passing out' as a passenger driver I had to learn to drive this loco, which is not difficult! First thing yesterday I took a couple of passenger trains around the track with this engine, just to 'consolidate' my qualification.

Chris Newton, from Wrexham club, prepares breakfast!

Me and Malc chatting to Chris

Adam Hodson and I have a chat

Keith prepares his 'Polly' tank while Malc looks on. We didn't realise it at the time but we would be spending the day on this loco. Keith said to me "right, you're a driver, take this loco and have fun!" What a generous chap he is!

....So off I went; me and my mount for the day!

Billy Stock on the inner track with a rather nice 0-6-0 tender locomotive 

Chris Newton with two fellow Wrexham members and his magnificent Robinson 2-8-0 which he built himself from scratch (not from a kit, but from raw materials)

Me driving the 'Polly' on a passenger train, on the 'big track' at the station

Resting between turns

So Malc could have some fun as well, and also to consolidate his driving experience to move him towards passing as a driver, Keith suggested I sit behind him and monitor him as we drove passenger trains. That's not easy, as it's difficult for the 'back seater' to keep an eye on vitals such as boiler water level, boiler steam pressure, and the state of the fire. It has to be done by a combination of peering around the 'driver' whenever possible, and asking some discreet questions!

In between runs I stretch my legs while Malc reaches for the 'bag' (water hose) to fill the tanks

 Me and Malc on the 'Polly' by the water tower, as Keith reaches for the cylinder oil to top up the loco's lubricators

 Phil Moyle's Beyer Peacock tank engine I passed out on as a driver two weeks previously. It is running on the inner track, where I usually run 'Alfred'. We are used to having the inner track to ourselves but it's perhaps as well I didn't bring 'Alfred' today as, with Billy on the 0-6-0 and this Beyer Peacock, there'd have been three locos on the inner track if I had. Also, once 'Alfred' is lit up and in steam, he needs regular attention with injectors and shovel which would have precluded our fun on the 'Polly' for me at least. 

 Families gather in the park, encouraged by the super warm and sunny weather

The queue of passengers at the station, waiting for a train ride, was growing!

 Tim Hines on Chris Newton's lovely Robinson 2-8-0 does his bit to reduce the queue

By the end of the day the 'Polly' had been running for many hours and steaming efficiency was falling off as ash built up in the smokebox and boiler tubes. I reversed the train off the 'big track' and we positioned the 'Polly' on one of the prep bays for Keith to dispose. We offered to help with this but really it's a one-man job best done by the loco's owner, so after having fun driving the 'Polly' all day, we left Keith with the mucky job of disposal! 

It only remained to round off this excellent day with a pint at The Bird in Hand on the way home. Very welcome it was, too!


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