A Little Train Driving

A Townsend Hook update will follow shortly.

Back from two weeks in Wales in which I drove Linda, Blanche & David Lloyd George adding 543 miles to my driving total miles, did some cycling and sight seeing and, well, buggered my right ankle.

It was always going to be an “interesting” time as Merddin Emrys decided it needed a summer holiday and retired to the engine shed by the sea. With only one double Fairlie of the two we usually have (or 3 we really need) there was some interesting double heading in prospect.

The first Saturday was the first day of high summer service and the engines decided to remind us just who is boss. It was a day most of us would rather forget. I won’t list it all but driving Linda our first trip was slippery but we made it. The video is us starting from Tan-y-Bwlch. Second trip we didn’t make it to half way. Basically, Bit A should be fastened to B whilst poking through C.  Without it you can’t open the fire hole door to add coal and you end up in the naughty siding.


It wasn’t all disasters though.

The one remaining double engine kept going although I only drove it for two days during my visit.

It’s not often that we are so reliant on the single engines at this time of the year so it was great fun to be operating them and trying to keep time.  The idea was that one service would have the Fairlie, the other main diagram double headed single engines and on the days the third diagram ran it would have a single engine solo.

When it was just the second diagram needing double heading the obvious combination is that of Linda & Blanche working together. There are some interesting twists though. For example they can’t both go into the coal road in Porthmadog together so you have to stop the train with the train engine in the platform to give room to manoeuvre. At Tan-y-Bwlch the lead engine has to overshoot the normal stopping point by about six feet so that they can both just about take water. Despite those considerations they work well together and look the part.

When the third diagram runs Linda & Blanche have to split up so one of them works this train which is too big for either Taliesin or Prince to do solo.

This picture ought to have been Blanche on her own at Tan-y-Griseau but Blanche was suffering from fallen arches (the refractory arch had partially collapsed) so Prince was borrowed from the Kids Week train to help out.

The remains of the arch was smashed out later and for a couple of days Blanche ran without one, but only as part of a double header, until she could be withdrawn to have a new arch fitted. This isn’t a five minute job as the engine has to cool down for the arch to be fitted and on this occasion the carrier needed repairing, before it can be slowly warmed up to make sure all the moisture is out of the cement before a serious fire is lit.

The use of one of the ladies on the third diagram means that the other double heads with a different single engine, usually Taliesin. They run this way round for three reasons. 1) they look better, 2) Linda/Blanche’s sanders are better and work for both engines and 3) they fit T-y-B water tower this way round.

Normally we’d run Prince & a Lady with Prince leading because it looks better despite them not fitting the water tower but on the 2nd trip of the ‘arch’ day the heavens opened just at departure time so we ran with Blanche leading for reason 2) above.

Suddenly using lots of single engines resulted in congestion on shed and some `adaptable’ diagrams.

On the occasion of this shot I think Linda was meant to go and do the 10:45 solo but Blanche went instead because Linda was having her spark arrestor mended. This is a constant job with these engines as a spark arrestor lives in a very hostile environment.  Incidentally, a spark arrestor doesn’t stop the engine ejecting char, that would just bung then engine up, it delays its ejection and breaks it up into small parts so that it is no longer a viable spark.

The end of the second week was marked with a bit of a spectacle, some good news and a lot of fun and goodwill. The standard gauge line from the north coast at Llandudno to Blaenau Ffestiniog was severely damaged by flooding four months ago since when no trains ran until repairs were completed in the last week of July. To celebrate its reopening a steam hauled special was run and a bit of a fete/fiesta happened in Blaenau. The standard gauge line is a challenge for steam due to its gradient and curvature. Milepost 19 is infamous for trains getting stuck. Black 5’s don’t like that spot but this time they weren’t taking any chances


The standard gauge train had two loco’s each of which has managed the ascent solo. Lead loco was an 8F 2-8-0 which with its small wheels for grunt rather than speed is what is often used on the branch. Second loco was Jubilee class 4-6-0 Leander. This is a 3 cylinder loco with a bit more oomph than a black 5. Together they were on top of the job.

There were six steam locos there at the time as the FR train had two on as well and there were two engines giving footplate rides to the visitors.

Or course whilst there we had to do a team photo
Having described the 8F as a slow freight engine I thought I’d link to this clip which shows the two engines showing a fair turn of speed parallel to the A55 dual carriageway.

They are not hanging about.

My two weeks in Wales wasn’t all steam engines.  I took my bike and spent a couple of days exploring places that you either don’t see in a car or take for granted.

I regularly drive round to Borth y Gest but because of that I wasn’t aware of this stream in the corner in the shade but a bike ride down the length of the harbour in Porthmadog and then the path over the headland brings you out in this corner of the bay. The shade was very welcome as it was getting a bit toasty by this point of the morning.
Another trip out doing a lap I used to do regularly when I lived there reminded me that was 30 odd years ago and that they appear to have made the hills steeper in the interim.  The bike shot is on Penrhyn station where I had stopped for a blow up having just made it up the hill. Further round the loop I took this moody shot of the Afon Glaslyn whilst wondering if I was about to get soaked – would have been likely as I was at the furthest point from base here.  All the photos thus far have been taken on my mobile phone.

I did take the posh camera but as it was looking like I had just taken it for a 400 mile ride in the car I set out one nice evening with it with the intention of doing some moody photography involving water falls.

These were all taken at Tan-y-Griseau. The early ones are up the Stwlan road towards Cwmorthin and are flood control measures that I hadn’t visited before.

The latter shots are the waterfalls just below the railway and photographed from the bridge on the road.

This was more of a scoping mission taking pictures with what I had to sort of decide what I wanted to do if I had planned it with the idea to return later for another go

So now we finish with the not so good news. At some point in all of the above I have done something unpleasant to my right ankle.  Its a sprain/twist and quite a bad one at that. No idea how I did it as there was no `ouch!’ event, it just swelled up and hurt to walk on it.

After a week at home it wasn’t getting any better and, if anything, was getting a bit worse. After consulting my GP it was off the A&E to get its picture taken to see if anything was broken.

Nothing is broken but it comes with the lovely news that sprains like this can take longer to mend than a break.

Have you ever had one of those tellings off that was done in such a calm and measured way that it wasn’t a telling off but at the end of it you felt well and truly told off?  That’s what I got when told the Doc that I’d done it on a steam loco, rested it for two days, drove a steam loco for two more days, drove the car 200 miles home and tried to work for a week.

Rest was suggested in a way that wasn’t an order but woe betide you if you didn’t.  Harry the mog has taken this seriously as the last two photos show. I haven’t done much this weekend (writing this is about the sum total) and as a result my ankle is a lot better than it was on Friday.

We’ll just have a snooze for several hours. I moved first!

It’s my go on the tablet Dad….hold on! What’s that noise in the kitchen?


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One thought on “A Little Train Driving

  1. Paul hope the leg is continuing to recover very taken with pictures of the cat obvious who is the leader/ boss in the house much like this one with two moggies one a lumpy lummox the other a “delicat ” lok forward to seeing you on the F.R in due course likely at Vintage weekend and at Expo end of oct as well pl keep up the quality work cheers

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