A week is a long time in railway preservation. During the last week 5305 Locomotive Association have been busy (well, actually we are busy every week!); Half of the patches for the support coach have been welded into place (thanks by the way to Hugh for taking time off work to help Malcolm-the-Welder on Monday – acting as a mobile wind shield to make the welding easier). The rest of the patches have been fettled and prepped ready for welding. The flue tubes are poised outside the machine shop ready for threading in the coming week. The latest news from the Five’s boiler in Tyseley is that the last 6 stays are about to be / have just been fitted and the re-tubing is imminent. One of the Five’s mechanical lubricators has been removed for maintenance and new seals. And Lamiel worked at the GCR last weekend – “Star of the Show” – we know that she was the star because that’s what it said on the local evening news on BBC East Midlands today when they showed footage of her working a mail drop at Quorn.
Meanwhile out on the National Network, Cromwell has been busy enough for everybody. Last Saturday (May the 9th) she worked a train which was supposed to be “The Palatine” (London – Manchester Piccadilly), but due to gauging issues she actually worked to Sheffield, then stabled overnight at Barrow Hill Roundhouse in Chesterfield before taking an Engine & Van move to Norfolk ready for this weekend’s “The Easterling” (Norwich – Liverpool Street Via Lowestoft). On Thursday the support crew arrived at Dereham, where she had been stabled for a few days to prepare her for the next journey. Having lit a warming fire in the box on Thursday (in torrential rain), we brought her round to full pressure on Friday and then set off for Norwich Crown Point depot for stabling ready for the 0710 move onto the station ready for the Easterling.
Watching the water guage as the tender nears full.
Driver Ron Smith, waiting for departure time.For the leg to Lowestoft 70013 was hauled backwards by a diesel on the other end of the train - hence the tail lamp.
The East Suffolk line from Lowestoft to Ipswich is a proper roller-coaster of a line with plenty of rural stations, level crossings and picturesque gradients to keep Ron Smith and his fireman Dave Wright busy.
The East Suffolk Roller-Coaster
After Ipswich we were on the Main Line to Liverpool Street where the train reversed and was hauled to Ilford depot for servicing, then back into Liverpool Street for the return journey. On the return we were on the Main Line all the way and thanks to steam provided by fireman John Hunt, driver Jim Clarke was able to give her her head after the water stop at Colchester. Standing at a window in the support coach on a warm sunny summer evening with the scent of beanfields in my nostrils and the sound of a Britannia at full throttle as she hurtled up Haughley bank was ample re-payment for all the early starts, late finishes, grit in the shoes, general discomfort, hard work, and responsibility of looking after a loco on the main line – we don’t get many magic moments, but when they come they are pure gold.
Back at Norwich, wearing an original headboard and lamps (and a tail-lamp ready for the return to Lowestoft).
The journey wasn’t over when we got back to Norwich, the diesel re-attached and hauled us ingloriously backwards all the way to Lowestoft to de-train the passengers who had boarded en-route, then we had a trot back with empty coaching stock to the depot, stabled the coaches and made our way back to Crown Point. As we put 70013 to bed at about midnight we were serenaded by a nightingale from a nearby copse. Another magic moment!
I’d like to thank the staff at all the depots who make our locos welcome, sometimes at short notice. Having a steam locomotive on a depot is so far out of the ordinary that it makes a fair number of logistical problems, but we are always made welcome, the engine is admired and staff on their way on or off duty usually take a moment to stop, admire and photograph the engine to show to family or friends – “you’ll never guess what I saw at work today!”