On Tuesday (24th May) I was rostered as Driver 2 on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway. On this particular duty the second crew look after the locomotive while the first crew (Driver 1 & Fireman 1 + their trainee) have their breakfast and lunch. Later in the afternoon we work the last train to Welshpool & back and last but not least clean out the loco’s ashpan and smokebox before putting it to ‘bed’for the night.
This means that there is time available to do other jobs …..
For me the first of these was to try and determine why the float valve on the water tower was not closing properly, when the tank was full, resulting in water running to waste from the overflow pipe.
The diagnosis was inconclusive and the recommendation was to replace it.
On the last train of the day The Earl was steaming well and I was able to capture an image of the fireman’s reflection in the pressure gauge as we plodded up Golfa Bank.
The following day I was D2 again. Much of the day was spent repairing and testing 110v extension leads – they get some rough treatment.
For the last train of the day I was accompanied by a trainee driver so I was more or less redundant. On the Beyer Peacock locos when the whistle is blown the spray hits the window on the fireman’s side of the cab and for a few brief seconds it makes a pretty starburst pattern.
But a visit to this railway need not be just about trains. If you keep your eyes and ears open the natural world around the railway offers some fabulous sights. On Tuesday we were treated to a pair of red kites zooming about over Llanfair Caereinion station. They might be a common along the M40 corridor but much less so in this part of Wales.
Wednesday’s thrill was watching a buzzard trying to get airborne with a rabbit. Hassled by the train it dropped the corpse and flew up into a tree to wait until we had gone away.
On the first trip on Thursday we had a race with a grey squirrel! As we rounded Sign Hut curve it scampered along the railhead, initially, about twenty feet in from of our engine. We were gradually catching up. You will probably be relieved to learn that when the gap had closed to around ten feet it decided to head off into the cess and safety. So we now know that a squirrel can run at 15mph.
Further down the line on the Golfa Bank we disturbed two fallow deer does.
These event happen very quickly and so taking wildlife photos is virtually impossible. But dear reader, later in the afternoon I was able to photograph a toreador in action.
He must be braver than me. I would not stand and cruelly taunt 21 tons of railway engine with only a piece of cloth for protection.