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Locomotive Operating News - June 2014

Change at the Top...

On 25th April 2014 the structure of our Engineering Department changed as Len Pullinger reached a ‘milestone’ birthday and with the Railway’s agreement has renegotiated the way he works.

Many of you will know that the Railway has benefited from the considerable skills and knowledge acquired by Len over many years at Havenstreet.  Following a considerable period of working on a self employed basis, in September 1992 Len took up the position of Chief Mechanical Engineer.  Under Len’s leadership, the Engineering Department has developed and grown into the major operation we have today.  A restructure in 2010 saw Len move to the position of Locomotive Superintendent, heading up the newly formed Locomotive Operating Department.

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Len Pullinger (Right) on 'Calbourne's footplate with Fireman Charlie Lemon (Left) and Driver Tony Barry.
Len will now undertake specific work for us on a self employed contract basis, this will provide us with continued access to Len’s wealth of knowledge and experience.  As an accredited Independent Competent Person, Len is also undertaking contract work at other preserved railways.

A restructure of Engineering to cover for Len's former role and to bring in further assistance for this busy area of the Railway is progressing.   At the time of preparing this report the Railway has advertised to recruit a skilled boilersmith /fitter.   Depending on the skills of any suitable applicant, a committee appointed by the Board is to consider how our future structure can be agreed with long term benefits for the Railway.  During this period of restructure, our Engineering Manager, Bob Huxtable, has taken a responsibility to oversee the Locomotive Operations.

Spring Locomotive Operating Summary

Pre-season steam tests took place on 12th March, the boiler inspector passed five locomotives fit for service: W8, W11, W24, WD192 and WD198.  With W38 still ‘in ticket’ until later in the year, the railway started the season in the very healthy position of having six locomotives available for traffic.  Unfortunately WD198 was subsequently taken out of service when a firebox fault was identified; the boiler will have to be lifted in order to rectify this.
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On Sunday  9th March 2014 the shed roads are packed to capacity with locos awaiting their steam tests, which took place on the following Wednesday.  W11 and W38 have already been lit up for a pre test test!
The good news on the locomotive front is that W11, in early Southern Railway livery and so without ‘Newport’ nameplates, was returned to passenger service at the Spring Bank Holiday ‘Dinosaurs of Island Steam’ gala.  W11 has been out of service since 2002, so the gala was the first time in 12 years we have been able to field two ‘Terriers’ for a public service, although the Brighton pair were occasionally seen in steam together during the early spring whilst W11 was undergoing running in and trials.

W11 has been out of service for so long that the Spring Gala was the first ever opportunity for some of our Enginemen to compare working on the two 'Terriers' - the same but different in a number of respects!
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During the Saturday of the Spring Gala, W11 heads a Down train towards Deacons Lane bridge, Ashey.  This was W11's first day of passenger service since 2002.
Driver Brindley and Fireman Smart got the season underway with WD192 on 16th March.  With only 5 operating days, March was a quiet month for loco crews.  The culmination of March operating was the special service for the annual Ashey Scurry race day on Sunday 30th, which includes such illustrious events as the 'Isle of Wight Grand National'! 

The racing did go ahead this year, despite the desperately wet winter keeping the ground very moist!  After its annual day of glory, Ashey Station has now reverted to its normal peaceful self.

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WD192 at Wootton on 30th March, Ashey Races Day, hence the destination board.
In the early part of the season the two Austerities (until the withdrawal of WD198), W8 and W38 all saw use on the passenger service with W24 coming on line later in April following the completion of a closed season work programme.

 W38 was kept in light steam on running days as standby loco in the event of a failure of the main service locomotive.  This was necessary as our usual standby, Class 03 D2059, was undergoing an engine overhaul.

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Driver Tony French and Fireman Steve Smart on the footplate of WD192 over the Easter weekend.

Easter Train Services

In anticipation of a busy holiday period, two train running was timetabled over the Easter period.  WD192 and W8 were the mainstays of the services.  Some fairly typical Bank Holiday weather arrived, which resulted in some rather damp Enginemen – there is nothing worse than oiling up a loco in the pouring rain!

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Typical English Bank Holiday weather.  Easter Sunday 2014 at Smallbrook Junction.
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Fireman Graham Farrar watches out for the Shunter as W8 propels the 4-wheelers into the headshunt at the end of services on Easter Sunday.
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Preparing W8 'Freshwater' for service on Easter Monday.  Fireman Roger Millward gets rid of the ash from the previous day's fire.

'Terriers' on the Goods

The intention for the Island Steam Days, on the second Sunday of each month until October, is to roster our Island locos for the goods services whenever possible, so far this has been achieved.  W8 'Freshwater' has headed the goods train, which has grown by two more wagons since the start of the season, on the April and May services.

W11 was also in steam for trials during the May Island Steam Day and the opportunity was taken to double-head the train with both ‘Terriers’, a real treat for all involved!

More pictures of the May Island Steam Day can be see HERE.

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W8 'Freshwater' waits for the Right Away from Smallbrook Junction - 11th May 2014.
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'Terriers' W8 and W11 back down onto the Goods train at Smallbrook Junction - 11th May 2014.
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A test steaming for W11 brought the opportunity for both 'Terriers' to double head the 11th May Island Steam Day Goods train.  Just about to depart from Smallbrook Junction.

Dinosaurs of Island Steam Gala

‘Dinosaurs of Island Steam’, our Spring Bank Holiday gala, saw four locomotives in steam each day and marked the return to passenger service of W11.  W24 was Duty 1 loco on all 3 days, taking care of the main passenger service with four Brighton bogies. The ‘Terriers’ alternated between Duty 2 and 3 on the 4-wheelers and the goods.  W38 was allocated to Duty 4, Station Pilot, throughout the gala. This restricted it to Havenstreet Station Limits apart from double heading a late afternoon train with Duty 1.  ‘Ajax’ also got to stretch it's legs a bit on Sunday when it covered the morning goods turns, standing in for W11 which was stopped for running repairs to its blower valve before re-entering service later in the morning.

The Gala was a very busy period for our engine crews with only four Drivers (Barry, Brindley, French and Smart) available to cover all turns except for Duty 4 on Monday, when Tim Spencer-Pete stepped in to allow Alan Brindley to get away on his family holiday.  8 Firemen were available and rostered for the Gala turns.  The variety of engines and duties made for a satisfying weekend of work for all concerned.

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On the Sunday of the Spring Gala, W24 'Calbourne' pulls away from Smallbrook Junction.
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W38 'Ajax' pilots W24 'Calbourne' away from Havenstreet during the Monday afternoon of the Spring Gala.
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WD192, W8 and W24 on the shed roads at Havenstreet during the Spring Bank Holiday gala.
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Fireman Les Morgan climbs aboard W24 during early morning locomotive preparation.

Bacon Sandwich?

Passengers frequently ask our Enginemen if they cook their lunch on the shovel, usually we have to explain that we don’t have the time in our busy day.  The Gala proved to be an exception, with some duties having a lengthy layover on shed during the early afternoon.

On the Monday lunchtime of the gala, W24's Driver Steve Smart made the most of the opportunity to produce some excellent bacon rolls on his Fireman’s shovel.

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The fat is sizzling...
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Into the firebox...
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Driver Steve Smart (left) and Fireman Graham Farrar enjoy the finished product.

Footplate Experience

In a new initiative for the 2014 operating season, the railway is now offering Footplate Experiences.  Customers are being given the opportunity, for an additional charge, to take a round trip of the line on the footplate of the service locomotive of the day.

In order to ensure the safety of all concerned, Risk Assessments have been carried out and an approved method of working has been developed and agreed.   A few tweaks have been necessary as we got used to this new activity; participants are now issued with a ‘Footplate Experience’ badge which identifies them to other staff and passengers, perhaps reassuring the public that they are not a member of the footplate crew and also as a subtle piece of marketing, hopefully encouraging further bookings!

So far there has been a pleasing uptake on the experiences, which have to be booked in advance.  All of the additional revenue generated is being channelled back into the Engineering Dept, giving even more job satisfaction for the footplate crew involved.

With this sort of activity, a considerable contribution to the success of the customer experience is down to our people and their enthusiasm to explain, which adds significant value.  Their wholehearted commitment has been recognised by some really positive customer feedback.  For example ‘My dad had a great time and said that the drivers were very knowledgeable and hospitable’ and ‘Thanks to Steve and Matt whose detailed information and explanations together with their merry banter added to the occasion’.  It’s good to be appreciated!

Looking Forward

The 2014 season is now well underway and the busiest part of the year is almost upon us, the railway will be operating  on most days during June and then on every day between 28th June and 19th September.

There are numerous special events to cover during the summer as well as 44 high-season two train service days.  Although the demands on the department are as high as ever, there are plenty of opportunities for all Enginemen to get plenty of turns in.

Our Roster Manager Alan Brindley needs all of our support in getting the turns filled, so please put yourself forward for whatever duties you are able to - every day counts!  Alan has asked that your July roster returns are in by 15th June so that he can get the roster compiled and published in good time.
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W38 'Ajax' receives a scoop of coal - May 2014.

Join the Team!

To sustain the level of effort needed to fulfil all loco crew requirements  throughout the year needs a healthy number of volunteers, so we are always on the lookout to recruit new members to the team.

Join us and start out as Locomotive Cleaner, gaining essential knowledge and experience of locomotive and railway operations.  Those with the enthusiasm and aptitude have the opportunity to progress to Fireman via our work book based training programme.  If you are interested in joining our happy band there has never been a better time to make quick progress towards becoming an ‘Engineman’ – it’s a job title, ladies are more than welcome to join the team!

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The initial point of contact for aspiring Enginemen is the railway’s Volunteer Coordinator Alan Gaskin, he can be contacted at  volunteering@iwsteamrailway or by calling the railway on 01983 882204.