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•service update•

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Saturday 16 December

Locomotive Operating News - November 2014

The High Season

This year the high season two-train working extended out until the middle of September; the railway operated continuously from 28th June until 18th September.  That’s a total of 83 running days, of which 42 were two train days.  Roster Manager Alan Brindley’s challenge in making sure that all of the necessary footplate turns are filled should not be underestimated, those of us on the footplate roster are used to receiving E Mails from Alan requesting help in filling last minute vacancies; fortunately in the majority of cases one of our Drivers or Firemen has been able to step forward and fill the gap.

There have been a few occasions this year when volunteer crew have not been available and a member of the workshop staff has had to undertake an unplanned footplate turn, which in turn has an adverse effect on workshop productivity.

Considering the roster for Drivers alone, there are currently only 14 of which 11 are in full time employment elsewhere with the constraints on availability that inevitably imposes,  so to get so many turns filled really is an achievement!  A positive side to this is that the majority of our Drivers complete a significant number of turns each year (some well above 30) so a high level of experience and competence is maintained.
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Fireman Chris Parrish prepares 'Ajax' for service on 15th August 2014.
The demands of providing motive power for the service has kept Mechanical Engineering Foreman Andy Summers on his toes this summer.  He has to ensure that the right engines are available at the right times, juggling each engines 14 day operational cycle between boiler washouts to deliver the necessary results.

For two train days this means that one of the more powerful engine's (O2, Austerity or ‘Ajax’) has to be available for Duty 1, which is generally the heavier bogie carriage set, with the ‘Terriers’ taking on Duty 2, the 4-wheelers.  This does not always work out and there have been occasions this summer when an Austerity has had to go out on the 4-wheelers, with a train that weighs just about the same as the locomotive itself!

Even a minor fault, taking an engine out of service for a day, can have a significant knock on effect on Andy’s locomotive availability plan.

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On an August two-train service day, WD192 'Waggoner' (Duty 2) and W38 'Ajax' (Duty 1) are prepared for their day's work.
An issue that has increased in prominence over the last few years is that it is impossible to guarantee the daily availability of volunteer Cleaners.   We need people to carry out the routine but essential work of keeping the loco yard clean and tidy, maintaining a safe working environment for all.  A whole range of tasks have to be completed,  such as emptying the ash pits each running day, general duties such as assisting with loco cleaning and breaking up pallets to use as lighting up wood for the following days service.  If no cleaners are available, these jobs have to be undertaken by a member of the workshop staff.

To mitigate this, the decision was taken to employ a part-time Yard Assistant for the high season.  Andy Dadson joined the team in July and has proved to be a real asset.  At work from 7.30am to midday 5 days a week, his efforts have made a real difference to the appearance of both yard and locomotives, whilst enabling our workshop staff to concentrate on their primary tasks.
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Yard Assistant Andy Dadson goes about his duties on 15th August 2015.

Train Story

The opening of Train Story has brought new operating practices into use for our locomotive crews.  The 4-wheeler and heritage goods train are now kept inside Train Story on display except when required for train services.  An interim working instruction, covering shunting in Griffins Sidings and Train Story, was put in place at the start of the season, a finalised instruction has now been issued.  The instruction has formalised a method of working that is safe for all concerned.  As far as loco crews are concerned, there are now more frequent shunting requirements at the beginning and end of some operating days.

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With Driver Steve Smart at the controls, W8 'Freshwater' eases the Heritage Goods Train out of Train Story in preparation for the June Island Steam Day. Keeping an eye on proceedings are Mechanical Engineering Foreman Andy Summers (left) and Duty Operating Officer Alan Doe.

Island Steam Days

Island Steam Days have operated as planned, on the second Sunday of every month throughout the season, the last for this year running in October.  The aim was to have an Island locomotive at the head of the heritage goods train on every occasion and this was achieved; W8 and W11 have both taken their share of the goods duties.  An added benefit is that our loco crews have been given the opportunity to maintain their competence of handling loose coupled trains.

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W11 pulls away from Havenstreet with the first Up Goods working of the September Island Steam Day.

Special Events

The number of special events staged by the railway grows every year, and with them the requirement for additional train services.  A number of evening services have operated, including a Midsummer Steam event with a train running as late as 11.00pm, which obviously means an even later finish for the loco crew!

A popular new venture for this year was an evening Real Ale train, with the finest local Real Ale being served from temporary bars during station stops along the line.  Loco Ops provided the engine crew and also some of the barmen. 
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Waiting at Ashey Station whilst the passengers seek refreshment, W24 'Calbourne' at the head of the Real Ale Train on the evening of 19th July.
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Taking a break from footplate duties, Steve Smart (left) and Alan Brindley are the Ashey Station Barmen.
The traditional high point of the year, the August Bank Holiday Island Steam Show requires three crews per day, although this was easily achieved with no shortage of available volunteers.  The Saturday evening exhibitors special, carrying ‘The Sundowner’ headboard, was as popular as ever and very well loaded.  The Bank Holiday Monday was beset by heavy rain, although the trains remained busy.

A number of charters have taken place, generating welcome business for the railway and additional turns for footplate staff.  The charters generally feature ‘Calbourne’, one of the Terriers – or all three of our historic locomotive fleet!

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August Bank Holiday Steam Show; the traditional Saturday evening special service for railway staff and Steam Show exhibitors waiting to depart from Wootton Station.
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Driver Tony Barry with 'The Sundowner' headboard after arriving back at Havenstreet.
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Waiting until the passengers have made their way to the fairground or Real Ale Bar, Driver Tony Barry and Fireman Ian Corney stand by for the lengthy shunt needed to get  the stock back into position for the next day.
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Footplate crews at the start of the Bank Holiday Monday Steam Show service - before the rain really took hold!  On W24 are Fireman Dave Smart with Driver Tony Barry. W8's crew are Driver Martyn Budd (left) and Fireman Steve Smart.
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Typical Bank Holiday weather, by mid morning the rain was coming down like stair rods.  Sheltering in 'Calbourne's cab, Fireman Dave Smart watches W8 pull in to Havenstreet Station.
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Later in the day and with the rain still pouring down, Driver Tony Barry (left) and Fireman Steve Castle keep undercover whilst waiting to take W24 away to Smallbrook Junction.

Footplate Experience

There has been a good take-up for Footplate Experiences throughout the season, they are proving to be a useful income stream for the railway.  Rather than being hard-core enthusiasts, the majority of participants seem to be celebrating their birthday or some other special occasion.

Much positive feedback has been received, our loco crews have been complemented for their welcoming, positive approach and their willingness to explain the intricacies of the steam locomotive.

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Driver Steve  Smart (left) with a Footplate Experience participant.

'Ajax'

Following one of her busiest seasons in recent years, ' Ajax’ undertook what was likely to be her last passenger duty before overhaul during September.  She remains ‘in ticket’ until the end of the year but there are currently no plans for further steamings.

Loco crews will have mixed feelings about saying a temporary farewell to ‘Ajax’.  There is no doubt that she has some down sides;  the constant rocking and rolling motion as speed picks up, the exhaust noise which increases dramatically the more weight she is asked to pull.  But it’s not all bad; she is easy to prepare, steams well and will pull anything we put behind her, ‘Ajax’s small size is deceptive.  With small wheels and big cylinders, she is designed to pull heavy trains at a steady pace and that is what she does well.  The footplate is actually a pleasant, well laid out, working environment – until the factors mentioned above come into play!  The plan for ‘Ajax’s future has yet to be announced.

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'Ajax' pays a visit to Train Story, collecting the 4-wheelers for the days service, on 30th August 2014.  The heritage goods train is on display on the other side of the platform.

Ivatts

As covered elsewhere, 41298 was steamed for the first time in August, 46447 has entered traffic on the East Somerset Ralway and the contract for 41313 to be overhauled at Cranmore has been announced.

There is still work to do before 41298 can enter passenger traffic, focussing on the provision of an air/steam proportional application brake arrangement.  Following the completion and commissioning of 41298, and then crew training, it is hoped that it will be entering service next year.  The plan for 41313 is for the overhaul to take a period of 2 years.

Significant change is on the way for the Loco Ops department, it is possible that we will have two Ivatts in service on the Island in a few years time!
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41298 moves gently out of the sidings and into the Down Loop on 20th August 2014, its first test steaming.
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46447 about to haul her first train since overhaul at Cranmore on the East Somerset Railway, 26th October 2014.
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41313 and 41298 together at Havenstreet in June 2009.  41313 will soon be leaving the Island for a contract overhaul at the East Somerset Railway.

Training

Training has continued steadily throughout the season, although the pressures of crewing the intensive high season service and the availability of instructors has had an impact on driver training.

Andy Toplis is to be congratulated on passing out as a Driver and John Kirkaldy for promotion to Fireman.  Congratulations also go to one of our engineering apprentices, Alex Hull, he had been undergoing Fireman training for some while and was passed out as soon as he reached the age of 18, the minimum age for a safety critical grade.

At the start of the training pipeline, Chris Brown and Dan Callcut are now trainee Firemen.   Dan has also been lucky enough to secure an engineering apprenticeship on the railway and has now joined the full time staff.

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Trainee Fireman Chris Brown (right) on 'Calbourne's footplate with Driver Tony French.
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Our Cleaners get W24 ready to go on a very sunny August morning. New members of Loco Ops team start out as Locomotive Cleaners, gaining essential knowledge and experience of locomotive and railway operations.

Looking Forward

The October Half Term Wizard Week has just finished, a final burst of two-train working was scheduled to meet the demand and some very busy evening trains ran on Halloween itself – this is an event that has seen significant growth in recent years.

There is only one scheduled operating day during November, the Poppy Trains on 9th November, although there is the possibility of a charter event later in the month.

Taking a break from steam, crews will be taking D2059 out on a number of ballast trains over the winter, preparing the ground for a visit from a tamper next year.  Diesel haulage is also going to be used in connection with the project to renew the telegraph pole run in the Wootton section.

In early December, the Christmas/New Year services will get underway with WD192 Waggoner likely to be in charge of all services.

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Ballast Trains operated on 1st and 2nd November in connection with the Civil Engineering Department's monthly Working Weekend.  Driver Alan Brindley is at the controls of D2059, with Steve Castle as his Second Man, whilst shunting in Griffins Field - 1st November 2014.
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Alan Brindley waiting to start a ballast train away from Havenstreet Station.

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 Frances Yunnie, she can be contacted at  volunteering@iwsteamrailway or by calling the railway on 01983 882204.  Alternatively, visit the Volunteering page for further information.

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