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Last week the Railway Touring Company ( asked 5305LA whether we were able to help out at short notice by providing steam traction for the “Christmas Heart of Midlothian” on the 20th of December. Apart from the fact that the only engine we currently have out on the main line was at Southall, that she was booked to go to Sherborne on the 18th and that we would have to find support crew for a marathon trip at short notice we were raring to go. The deep South West to the Scottish Capital in three days? Bring it On!

The Sherborne trip had been booked for some time and we already had support crew rostered for it, so it was ‘just’ (have I mentioned ‘just’ jobs before?) a question of finding enough bodies to get Lamiel from Southall to York, from York to Edinburgh, from Edinburgh to York and from York to Keighley the weekend before Christmas... Some of the people who were doing the Sherborne trip were able to stay with her for the duration, others were due to join the gang at Peterborough and York.

Prepping for the marathon needed to be very thorough because we couldn’t take any chances with such a long job so some of us went down on Tuesday afternoon to start work. We had a very cold night because we didn’t have steam by the time we went to bed – we like to allow plenty of time for the boiler to warm up before we start boiling water in earnest, especially in winter.

Tangmere came home while we were still getting the job sorted, which made a change because as I said in my last posting, normally engines tend to come and go while everyone else is asleep which was certainly the case later in the proceedings, but more of that later.

Wednesday was spent polishing and prepping as usual, we do like to turn out a clean engine, and one with plenty of oil where it matters! Then tea-bath-bed ready for an early start on Thursday morning, we had steam heating by that time so we weren’t all shivering in our sleeping bags.

At Waterloo ready to depart

The trip to Sherborne went well, plenty of steam, reasonable coal, it wasn’t raining and we had enough bodies to make light work of the coal pulling, watering and other duties. Water was courtesy of our good friends from BTT again ( John from BTT had sent us a lovely Christmas card which his wife had made specially for us. I hope they don’t mind me sharing it with you.

For servicing we went to Yeovil Junction again. We last visited earlier in the year with 70013, this time we were greeted by the sight of “Pectin” parked in a siding with a headboard advertising their Santa specials, plenty of volunteers to work the turntable and water column and generally a warm welcome.

The first job was to go across for coal, which meant that Lamiel had a chance to ink in another ‘rare’ section of track in her “branch lines I have worked” album. This time we set back onto the single-line Pen Mill branch, collecting the token on the way past the box.

The branch has a very handsome gantry with semaphore arms, all in all a joy.

After coaling we went across to the turntable, and then set for water at the column and servicing on the pit.

 Geoff helps turn.

It was dark by the time we set off back up to Sherborne to pick up the passengers, but a trip behind steam in the dark is always interesting because the glow from the fire illuminates the exhaust as it passes the cab, lighting up orange against the sky and the occasional spark which leaves the chimney glows red in the dark until it burns out as it drops towards the ground our own private mini meteor shower. Some people still wait by the lineside to see us pass in the dark – they enjoy the spectacle as much as we do. Others are going about their ordinary business not knowing that we are coming and suddenly hear the sound of the engine approaching and they look up in time to see her go past. No, you can’t say that steam in the dark is boring.

When we arrived back at Southall we had only about 4 hours before the engine was due to leave with the support coach to go to York. The support crew who were due to stay with Lamiel for the engine and van trip went to bed while the rest of us disposed and serviced ready for the next leg. It was pretty much a repeat of the servicing at Yeovil, with the addition of charging the batteries for the electronic equipment, filling the water containers for tea making, and pulling the coal forward so that it was all within reach while they were under the wires all the way to York. Coal is no good to you if it is at the back of the tender with what looks like several acres of bare plate between you and it and you can’t reach it because of the OLE. Shovelling coal forward is a surprisingly noisy job –I know that it disturbed the lads who were trying to sleep ready for the next leg, but I also know that it was a sound they liked to hear – after all, the more we brought forward, the less they had to do. The noise probably woke the A4 support crew as well, they were next to us in their coach when we arrived Sorry Roger, guys, you understand!

We left Lamiel and the support crew sleeping and went home to get some kip. But we’ve had regular reports. Lamiel arrived in York on time, there they were joined by extra volunteers, so the ones who had been with her to Sherborne were able to have the afternoon and evening off. They left York early this morning and should arrive in Edinburgh at around 2pm.

After that she is due to come back engine and van to York and then to Keighley where she will spend Christmas with our friends on the KWVLR.


By Info | Saturday, December 20, 2008 | Tags : 30777

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