During the second week of August I had a four day session of footplate work at the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway. Day one, Tuesday 9th of August, Tony and myself were rostered as Crew 3. Oh an easy day we thought …. sign on at half past eight and nip down to Welshpool by car; collect a diesel and two carriages, that had been stabled there over night, and bring them back to Llanfair arriving at 10:30. A quick bit of shunting and then some of time off ….. before changing overalls and working a steam trip at 12:50. Then last but not least work the diesel back to Welshpool at five o’clock.
Diesel train arriving at Cyfronydd
Oh how wrong we were. The run up from Welshpool was without incident; the shunting was another matter and involved moving just about every bit of rolling stock that was in the yard at Llanfair. There was then a few minutes to grab a mug of tea before inspecting and re-fueling the diesel.
By then The Earl was arriving with the 11:05 ex Welshpool. Tony and I helped with the turn around which involves taking water, coal and emptying the ashpan. Crew 1 then looked after the loco while we had lunch. Food consumed we took charge of the ‘old gent’ and worked the 12:50 Lanfair to Welshpool & Return.
We were looking forward to a break of an hour or so when we got back but no! The diesel locos were being swapped. Richard in the workshop needed a hand to check out that Chattenden was fit for traffic. And then it needed to be fuelled and made ready for the 17:00 departure.
Chattenden outside the workshops at Llanfair Caereinion
And so we arrived at Welshpool ran round and shunted the train onto the carriage shed siding. (We were unable to actually put the train into the shed as the floor was being concreted.) By the time we had driven back to Llanfair and deposited the loose kit from the diesel in a safe place it was six-thirty!! So much for an easy day.
Day 2: Tony and I we were Crew 2 along with Tom (a trainee driver). We prepared Joan, an 0-6-2T built by Kerr Stuart that originally worked in sugar mill in Antigua, ready for the 11:20 departure.
Joan waiting for departure time at Llanfair Caereinion
With dry rails and plenty of steam Joan coped with ease and all was going well until we were descending Golfa Bank.
We are currently burning Welsh coal it is nearly all carbon and contains only a small percentage of volatile hydrocarbons so consequently makes very little smoke. But it does create clinker. Firemen often run a bar through the fire as the train approaches Welshpool to get the fire-bed ready for building the fire for the return journey.
Tony had the misfortune to dislodge a firebar ! One end was up above the hot coals the other down in the ashpan. On the move there was nothing that could be done.
Once we were at the water tower Tony was despatched to find some bricks or rocks to fill up the gap in the grate if the dislodged bar could not be refitted. Meanwhile Tom dealt with the water and oiling.
Using the fire-irons I pushed the fire forwards and away from the out of place firebar. The bar was then teased into the ashpan. I was then able to reach into the ashpan and extract the errant bar. As you might imagine it was rather hot and required a copious amount of water to cool it down.
The next job was to try and get it back into place. Now Joan’s firehole door is tiny and the grate is deep. With gloves on and a thick rag for extra insulation I reached in through the door and dropped the bar into place, it didn’t go right down level with the others, but was going to be good enough to get us home.
Tony’s bricks were not needed but we took them along for the ride. Back at Llanfair the Duty Manager decided to take Joan out of service and use a diesel on the 14:20 service.
No. 17 deputising for the failed steam locomotive.
The next morning Tony and I did a partial firebar swap.
The bar that fell out is 5th from the left.
As it did not go back in level with the rest of the bars it has been badly burnt.
Two new firebars were inserted and Joan was ready to be lit up again.
I’ll not bore with any more of our ‘adventures’ that week but below are few photos.
Joan arriving at Cyfronydd. The driver and blockman are exchanging train staffs.
Concreting the floor of the Welshpool Carriage Shed
Extracting water from The Earl’s axleboxes.