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This week saw Sir Lamiel, the NRM’s ‘King Arthur’ class 4-6-0 No. 30777 return to the main line for the first time since 2008. The week began with a small team going over to Tyselely to finish putting her back together after the ‘bottom end’ work that she’s received over the last few weeks (axleboxes, hornblocks, motion pins and bushes etc).

Hugh and Tom with a barrowload of kit getting her ready for the test run.

A warming fire was lit on Monday and the Tyseley Locomotive Works team ‘weighed’ her and re-set the springs. Tuesday saw two light engine test runs to Stratford-upon-Avon with Driver Andy Taylor and Fireman Craig Stinchcombe. Tom Tighe was engineer in charge. All went well on the test runs and the bearings all appeared to be within normal limits so the planned light engine move to Southall for Wednesday could go ahead. Unfortunately, the Arthur’s support coach No. 14064 was not ready for her to take south, so we would be on our own, but at the last minute there was a request for the Arthur to take two extra coaches down to strengthen the train, so the ‘light engine’ run became a (very) short train of an FO and a Pullman. It was a fairly un-eventful run down, with a water stop at Hinksey North and a pathing stop next to Slough Signalbox. The thirsty driver, fireman and support crew are extremely grateful to the kind signallers at Slough who provided much needed tea – the Arthur is a dusty engine at the best of times, and a warm dry day only makes the problem worse. After arriving at Southall we had time for a traditional lunch of bacon butties and a check around the engine, clean the fire, a quick chat to Derek, the shed manager about arrangements for the trip on Friday, then over to the station to catch the train back to Tyseley for a shower and night’s sleep in a proper bed.

Back down on Thursday morning, stopping briefly at Loughborough to collect oil and spare name/ number plates to disguise her as No. 30453 “King Arthur” at the request of Steam Dreams. The NRM had given permission for the name change on a strictly one-off basis. Given the lack of support coach for us to use, Derek at Southall had kindly arranged that we could borrow 60019’s coach as a dormitory, and between them, he and Andy Taylor of West Coast Railway Company had arranged the use of a TSO for the support crew to travel in during the trip, which ensured that at least we had somewhere to sit (the train was fully booked), lay out our picnic lunch and rest between duty turns. The only proviso for both coaches was that we had to leave them clean and tidy – which we were happy to do (we also left a stack of biscuits for the 60019 team as a ‘thank you’ for them to find next time they use their coach).

In addition to the usual preparation, we had a lot of cleaning to do as the engine was fairly mucky having spent a couple of months in the workshop, followed by two days of light engine work with a skeleton support crew – just enough to do the oiling and steam raising, but not enough hands for cleaning as well. Much of Thursday was spent changing the identity of the locomotive – matching up the holes in the plates, attaching the fablon stickers to the cabside with Vaseline and changing the smokebox number to suit the Arthur’s borrowed identity.

Identity change complete "30453" waits time at Victoria

Driver Peter Roberts, also waiting for departure time.

Leaving London with 12 coaches convinced us that all the hard work and money we’ve put in over the last 8 months has been worth it – she seemed to be steaming and moving better than previously. We had a good run out towards Stratford, with plenty of people turning out with Flags of St George to wave at a Scottish engine, built for the Southern Railway, named after a Welshman, disguised as a mythical English King on the feast day of England’s Patron Saint, travelling towards the birthplace of the Bard of Britain! We even had a St George’s flag from the vicinity of the box at Slough, so I think they’ve forgiven us for taking the mugs away, or perhaps they were fooled by the cunning disguise and didn’t realise that “King Arthur” was actually the notorious mug thief “Sir Lamiel”.

On arrival at Stratford we quickly hooked the engine off, took water from Bells & Two Tones and then sent her on her way to turn at Dorridge while the rest of the support crew made our way across to the supermarket cafe for a much needed lunch (at around 3pm!) After lunch we waited on the platform for the engine to return, then water again to replace what had been used on the turning move, pull the coal forward, re-fill the lubricator, clean the fire and do all the other myriad tasks that need doing for a steam locomotive on a long trip. We also had time to talk to the passengers, most of whom seemed pleased with the identity change, although some had noticed that 30777 is a “Scotch Arthur” built by the North British Works, whilst 30453 was an “Eastleigh Arthur”, with consequent major differences in cab, tender and other details. We could only smile and agree – we knew when we’d been asked to make the change that it would be “Wrong” but it was what Steam Dreams wanted, so we obliged, but we quickly changed her back as soon as we got back to Southall!

Swapping the plates back

Getting back to Southall was a longer job that originally planned – the notorious “Gauging Issues” struck again, with a result that we weren’t permitted to go into Waterloo as planned, instead we took a circuitous route across London to Clapham (Britain’s Busiest Station – I know because it said so on the signs) which was the only one with a platform long enough for 12 coaches that had a path for us, where the passengers left us, then carry on round in a big loop, passing Acton Wells Signal box for the fourth time in the day to reach South West Sidings, run round and work tender first back to Southall, passing Acton Wells Box again. We put engine to bed, then quickly followed to our borrowed accommodation for a few hours’ shut-eye then a proper disposal job and back home to showers and hot tea. Job Done!


By Info | Saturday, April 24, 2010 | Tags : 30777

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