The Back Gear Boys
Having cleaned out the grate and smokebox over the weekend as part of the washout (See Washed out Again), preparing the NRM’s King Arthur Class Locomotive No. 30777 “Sir Lamiel” for Wednesday’s Dorset Coast Express for the Railway Touring Company was fairly straightforward, and although after the washout she needed a lot of cleaning, we even managed to find time to wash the coach.
Inspector Ron Smith, with Pete Roberts, Mike the Diesel driver and Geoff Morris from the support crew discuss railways old and new!
Because of the busy schedule on the Great Western Main Line through Southall, we usually end up leaving the shed at 05.30 and despite a leisurely trip across London we find ourselves in Victoria Station early, so on Wednesday we made good use of the time by polishing the side of the coach next to the platform to complete the job begun with washing it the day before. While some of the support crew polished the coach, Gerry set-to cooking breakfast for us and bacon butties for the footplate crew.
The driver was Pete Roberts with Dean firing. We left Victoria on time but quickly suffered the usual signal check near Longhedge Junction which put us two minutes behind. We stayed 2 minutes down all the way to the first water stop at Winchfield where our friend John from Bells and Two Tones put in some swift work and topped up the tender well within the allocated time and allowed us to pull back the delay. Thanks to Pete and Dean’s hard work Lamiel put in a good performance on the way to Weymouth, Dave Hewson, the afternoon driver for the return leg with Bittern rode with us ‘on the cushions’ from Woking and it was fascinating to hear his comments on the route as we journeyed.
Despite the weather forecast promising rain ‘from the Downs to Dartmoor’ most of the journey was accomplished in the dry, except for a brief but heavy shower at the Winchfield water stop, which neatly soaked all of the support crew and both driver and fireman. The rain soon stopped though and we arrived at Weymouth under sunny skies. We were met at Weymouth by another BTT driver who topped up our tender, then had to wait for the arrival of the return engine No. 60019 “Bittern”. We provided him with tea, and he’d brought his own deck chair and newspaper to while away the time on the other side of the security fence, when he’d finished the tea, he hung our mug on the fence for us to collect – teamwork!
Its funny how rosters go, isn’t it? With the Dorset Coast Express one engine works the outbound part of the trip from Victoria to Weymouth and banks the return as far as Wareham, and another engine arrives tender first with support coach from her stabling point at Yeovil Junction to work the return leg. The footplate crew for the outbound trip are relieved at Weymouth by a fresh set of men, while the crew who have worked the relief engine from Yeovil get to take over the outbound engine for the banking move and then take her to stable at Yeovil Junction. This means that one crew work an engine and coach tender first from Yeovil Junction to Weymouth, bank the service train (tender first and at the back of the train) as far as Wareham, work chimney first back down to Weymouth then pick up the support coach and work tender first back to Yeovil Junction. Let’s call them the Back-Gear Boys. This week (Wednesday 4th August) the Back-Gear driver was Bill Warriner and the fireman was Mel Cox. Mel first encountered the NRM’s splendid machine No. 30777 “Sir Lamiel” at Swanage when he was fireman on the turning move from Swanage to Eastleigh and back – a trip of about a hundred miles.... light engine tender first, with just a short stretch of forward gear on the loop around Eastleigh Works! You may have noticed that Lamiel has a low tender, and there’s no back to the cab, so you get a very good view running tender first as there’s nothing in the way. Unfortunately, this also means that if there’s any weather about you get it in spades. Well on Wednesday during the banking move it began tipping down with rain as the train left Dorchester with Lamiel pushing hard at the back tender first, and it kept hurling rain down onto the four unlucky souls on the footplate until the train arrived at Wareham, by which time they were all soaked to the skin.
Then the rain stopped and the sun came back out for the chimney first move back to Weymouth to pick up the support coach and the rest of the support crew who’d been enjoying warm sunshine for the whole time we were away! The return leg of the banking move was delayed by a warning that there was a cow on the line. Normally when a driver gets a call to say that there’s livestock on the line he slows down and proceeds at caution through the whole section without seeing a trace of the animal, but this time we actually saw the cow in question – it was a large animal, and would have posed a real danger to itself and Lamiel if they’d come into contact, luckily by the time we arrived a Network Rail MOM was on hand to keep it cowed in the bushes and the farmer was on his way to shoo it safely back into the field.
The trip to Yeovil Junction was accomplished in warm evening sunshine. We were held at Maiden Newton to await the arrival of the service train out of the single line section so that we could get the token and continue our journey. This stop appears to be popular with the locals who all visited the platform to compare Lamiel with the previous week’s engine (Bittern) and to enjoy the sight and sound of one of the nation’s finest locomotives sitting sizzling in the August evening sunshine.
By Info | Friday, August 6, 2010 | Tags : 30777