Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pre-Season "Training"

Please excuse the rather lousy pun - as regular viewers will know - today was not Mossley v Thackley (they won 3-2 by the way !), but a day of playing with a full size train set - in football, it's "You're the Boss" - today it was "You're the Driver !!" And I'm doing some shameless plugging for some other good stuff tonight

Left work last night (Friday) and drove down to Stafford to see Mum and Dad Smiffy - tis a rare meet for people relatively close together in mileage - we went out for a meal just up the road from where they live (, caught up on the last "x" months, before me and Mrs Smiffy drove down to Ironbridge Gorge, where we were staying overnight at the "Severn Trow" - formerly known as "The Boatmen's Brothel" believe it or not - see for more info. Telford was it's usual self - bloody hard to negotiate but we got there in the end. Lovely place - and a cracking "Full English" this morning. Ironbridge Gorge looks like somewhere well worth a visit for more than - well we got there about 2200 and left at 0815 - saw nowt really - but we will return - oh yes.

And so - onwards to Telford Steam Railway, ( situated at Dawley - so yet another "dalliance" with the quirks and stuff that seem to make up "Telford & the Wrekin". Arrived just after 0830, attached walking boots and borrowed some overalls before shoving left hand up into the firebox of a steam tram to check the fuseable plug - plug OK (Leeds & Download wristbands a tad mucky - they cleaned up tonight mind !!). On with the gauntlets and on with the firing up of the steam tram - the "big bugger" - see later - would have entailed a much earlier start. I've gone on for long enough - some pix I feel - NOTE - all pix on this thread are ones I took with baby Fuji in between doing "stuff" - Mrs Smiffy was also taking pix - see I give you the steam tram ...

Once up to pressure, meself and Roger - yes one instructor (Robin) for just two people - were given the lowdown on how to go forwards, backwards, faster, not so faster - and most importantly how to stop - oh and yes, the whistle in the steam tram was a "pull down chain". We then took it in turns in going up and down the track - in between goes of course adding coal, keeping the pressure at a safe working level (water first, then steam, drop water down until you hear a coffee "percolator sound" - steam off water last), oiling as necessary - and avoiding runing people over.

Before we knew it - it was 1300 and time for lunch - and then the afternoon session on the steam train a Peckett 0-4-0 Saddle Tank shunter - which looks not unlike this ..

First job was to get four wheelbarrowloads of coal from a pile several hundred yards away and then transfer by hand an bucket into the bunker on the train. Obviously the loco was already up to pressure thanks to the "morning shift" - so it was a look around the cab - and it was the same as the baby steam tram - obviously same principles and stuff just bigger, heavier and generally more "butch" !! Here's some of the "innards"..

The afternoon was then spent learning the forwards, backwards, stop stuff - then learning to stop at a given point (both forwards and reverse) - coupling up to some wagons (gently gently on the regulator !!) - shovelling coal - letting off steam (literally !!) - stopping to take on water - and passengers (Mrs Smiffy and Roger's family) - uncoupling - shunting back into the yard - and generally having a great time under the beady eyes of Paul and Rod (I think - apologies if I've got the name wrong). The stoppping at a certain point involved the "mythical" Lord and Lady Muck in the carriage to be coupled - eating their soup - and us drivers trying to avoid putting said mulligatawny into their honourable laps !!

All too soon it was 1700 - the weather had been hot - the footplates even hotter. What a cracking day out - I'd recommend it to anyone - I may be a train buff myself, but I was a little late for the "steam era", so it was something new and unusual - plus you get a chance to get mucky and play with big machines !! Anyway - to prove I know what I'm doing (it's not a driving licence - or even a provisional but...) I can now "talk from experience" ...
Mrs Smiffy then dumped me at Wellington Station for the train to Shrewsbury, thence to Manchester Piccadilly - while she drove off for a weeks hols with her Mum and several sisters, relatives just outside Llangollen. That explains the lack of pix from the "other side" if you like - when she returns I'll thrap a few into the ubiquitous photbucket.. viz which has already got a few of mine in it !!

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