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Southall shed feels like a working steam depot at the moment; when we arrived in the dark on Sunday evening to start prepping 30777 ‘Sir Lamiel’ she was in the shed at the back of ‘Sir Nigel Gresley’ and there was an empty road at the side of us where, we were told, Tangmere would be arriving later that evening. Tangmere finally arrived well after midnight, their train had been delayed by an incident further up the line. So by the time they came in we were already huddled in our sleeping bags wishing that we were somewhere warmer. 

We had arrived at Southall at around 7pm and we set to getting Lamiel ready for lighting up straight away. This meant undoing all of the frost precautions that Kevin had done a few weeks ago (draining the injectors, gauge frames, lubricator etc), re-installing the gauges which had been away for calibration (sending them off to a warm workshop for calibration is another way to keep them frost protected I suppose!). Meanwhile Hugh set to in the firebox giving the grate a very thorough clean and re-set. If this isn’t done ash builds up between the bars and can cause them to rise up under the fire and get burnt. It is a long fiddly cold job, but well worth the effort because, if nothing else, we know that any steaming problems are not due to lack of care in setting the grate and besides it cuts down on bar damage. We finally got the fire alight at about 10pm, which meant that there was no chance of steam before bed-time, so no steam heating in the support coach which had been uninhabited for seven weeks. It was cold, it was very cold – it hadn’t got above freezing all day, I think that every one of us went to bed in at least some of our clothes.

Kevin was the first to crack in the morning, he woke up cold at about 6.30 and decided that the best thing to do would be to get up, go to the engine and see if there was enough steam to start heating the coach. The rest of the team were woken by the sound of steam rushing through the heating pipes under the seats – one of the most welcome sounds you can hear.

So on Monday we cleaned, oiled, polished and prepared Lamiel with two other main line locos for company – Tangmere was still in light steam as a frost precaution so that she would be ready for later in the week and Gresley was cold waiting for her crew to arrive on Tuesday while we were out.

We had a brilliant trip to Salisbury on Tuesday, the weather was bright and clear (which accounts for the cold) and Lamiel looked lovely and went well, with no mechanical problems. The day started at a reasonable hour, so I was able to get a photo of Southall Shed in daylight for a change.

We were facing the wrong way round when we left Southall so we had to turn the train at Willesden on the way to Waterloo. This move means that we use a ‘rare curve’ on the back of the triangle. This is another bit of track that Lamiel can ink in on her map (can locomotives join the Branch Line Society?).

There were a lot of people about to watch Lamiel on her way to Salisbury, when we stopped at Staines to pick up passengers the footbridge was full of sightseers, and it seemed that every over-bridge on the route had at least one head peering over the parapet.

Christmas is a time for seeing old friends and admiring their new toys. In this case it was lovely to see John from Bells & Two-Tones at Winchfield after a seven week break. When he was handed his tea he looked perished with cold, but he explained that he’s finally finished converting his new tanker and it has a very efficient cab heater, so the temperature change between warm & toasty cab and cold frosty outside was quite a shock. Hopefully the hot tea helped. We couldn’t see the tanker at Winchfield because he was parked out of sight of the engine, but we did get a look at Salisbury. She looks very smart – particularly with a beautiful steam locomotive in the background!

We took coal at Salisbury from a lorry with a long hi-ab grab arm. As we stood in the siding for this operation we were able to see into a theatre company van which was parked alongside the fence with the biggest fly I’ve ever seen in the back seat – we really do see everything on a railtour! 

When we got back from Salisbury late Tuesday evening Gresley was in steam, but their crew were either in bed or out getting food so it was our turn to arrive in the night. In the morning we had a chance to see and chat with Roger and the A4 crew as Gresley and Lamiel were stabled side by side. The A4 team thought that Lamiel looked clean and smart despite her exertions on Tuesday, which is a credit to the hard work of all our team, including three new additions to the team who came to help us out and see what the job entails.

Seeing the A4 team hard at work cleaning Gresley made me thankful that Maunsell never thought of stream-lining because although it looks lovely and presumably improves performance, it is a very devil to work on because there’s nowhere to stand.

When we left they were still hard at work cleaning and prepping ready for a trip on Thursday, during which presumably, the Tangmere team will arrive to start prepping for their trip on Saturday – a sort of Locomotive Leapfrog. We will be back on Tuesday next week to get ready for the trip to Sherborne on Thursday, after which Lamiel has been asked to fill in at short notice for a trip to the far north – I’ll give you more details in the next report.


By Info | Thursday, December 11, 2008 | Tags : 30777

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