Scorchio!

Well, I certainly chose a corker of a week to drive trains. I can recall a few hot ones in the past and to some extent forewarned is forearmed with regards to dehydration and heat stroke having had a bad experience in the past.

I was very fortunate that my roster on each of the four days was just one lap. It was enough. Day 1 was on Blanche on the 12:25 Mountain Prince service. Blanche is quite enclosed but you can stand away from the hot bits. With the number of bottles of water on the footplate, some for drinking and some for wearing a trip to Wilco for a wine rack would have been handy.

It was pretty hot on the engine but that was a taster for what was to come.

Day 2 was one lap on the 10:00 driving Merddin Emrys. In most ways Merddin is the worst for a hot day with its more enclosed cab but in a surprise way DLG is worse, but more of that later.

The train service this week was the Mountain Prince which is a version of the railways Covid secure service. The up steam service runs to Tan-y-Bwlch where a diesel is attached to the rear. The up train also crosses a down train here. We then run up to Barn Cutting, just above Dduallt, where we pause for a scenic interlude. The diesel then guides the train back down to TyB where the passengers get around an hour to use the cafe, toilets and explore the woodland walks. The diesel is uncoupled ready to go on the end of the next up train and the steam loco moves up to close to the water tower. Ingenious train crew have set up a staff seating area in the shade. Trouble is the engine sits in the sun getting hotter for this 45 min. I ended up tipping bottled water over the steam brake handle to be able to use it! Once the next up train has gone with the diesel on the back the steam loco runs round and takes its train back to Porthmadog.

What does a steam loco driver do on his day off?

Goes and looks at steam engines of course!

Actually, it was a bit of a tour taking in Barmouth and then visiting friends at Fairbourne. They made us have a ride – honest! The tour did continue with a scenic interlude and some light refreshment.

Day 3 was another day with Blanche.

The heat was getting very silly now. The track had been suffering in the heat and we had a blanket 15mph speed limit on but there were a number of places with emergency lower speeds on them because of it.

This was an interesting trip as Blanche was loaded with a trial of an imported coal as our current source is due to close next year. The only slight worry was that this was the engines second day on it and there wasn’t much left on the engine.

The temperature resulted in further engine crew ingenuity.

As well as our shady picnic spot we now had a drinks cooler. The water tower always has a bit of a dribble and is ice cold so be delaying its trip to the drain with a bucket the bottles of water get chilled.

Drinking two or three 2 Litre bottles of water in a round trip is not out of the ordinary. Also much to the pain of the railways medical staff they recommend salty crisps and rehydration salts.

In olden days it would have been a pint of mild!

Day 4 and its the other double engine, David Lloyd George, for a lap.

This is perhaps where you’d think the more open cab would make it a bit cooler but in this heat it was a losing battle.

The surprising difference was that on the more enclosed Merddin the Vacuum brake handle is in line with the window and therefore gets a cooling airflow. DLG’s is set lower down and doesn’t line up with the window. It gets very hot when stood and isn’t cooled by a draught. As the down trip is all about vacuum braking I ended up driving with a glove just on my left hand.

Well, that was a scorcher but I am off to do it again in a weeks time and this time we get to go to Blaenau for the first time since October and one of my protégés should qualify as a driver.

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3 thoughts on “Scorchio!

  1. Paul glad you are able to keep up your required hours as a driver even if in very hot conditions makes a change for a fireman to be hot when usually wet crossing the Cob etc but still must be dreadful either side of a fairlie boiler in the recent heat stay safe and well hope to see you at Burton in Oct

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