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Quainton News Archive - No. 58 - Autumn / Winter 1985 / 86

BR(WR) 94XX Class 0-6-0PT No. 9466

GW150 Didcot


(see picture on front cover)

It was on a Monday morning
BR men came to call
"We'd like to show your loco
Swindon GW150 ...
You know!"

With fifteen months still to go till British Rail's planned GW150 celebrations, and invitations to display firmly out, how could Didcot Great Western Society pass up the opportunity of gathering all the South of England participants together for a great Didcot extravaganza? This was a perfect chance to steam a unique collection for the public's (and, of course, the owner's) pleasure and enjoyment. The locos were then scheduled to run on BR metals to Swindon for the official celebrations.

The planning was as long and intense as the preparations that went into each locomotive. The steaming roster had to be carefully prepared around the many variables of crew availability (including holidays).

A 4.30 am alarm started each day of the celebrations in order to arrive at Didcot by 6 am to join the fire-raisers, who had the fires already burning. The preparation of fires had to be treated with great care, as the fuel consisted of Welsh Lump Coal mixed with a little Midland Dow Mill Colliery.

A very welcome and looked forward to break came at 8 am, when a superb cooked breakfast appeared on the table by the hands of Jeanette and her helpers. The topic of conversation? Easy! Locomotives ...! ! The diagram for the day was issued while all crews were in one place and the officer of the day hurriedly contacted all drivers to confirm that their steeds would be ready and waiting at the designated time. With crews and locos fed and watered, the final preparation grooming was set upon, oil to moving parts and soft cloth to brass, a comb to the hair and a cap to the head.

All the visiting crews had previously been issued with GWS driver's and fireman's tickets to enable them to drive any of the locomotives on site. The only stipulation was that a pilot should be carried on all visiting footplates until the crews were familiar with the yard and its layout. For me, coming from Quainton, their branch line was a new experience, as it was as long as the up-line at Quainton with a station at each end, fully signalled and with a level crossing.

During the course of the day, all locomotives had a turn on the branch line, No. 8 road or static-display in steam outside the shed. To provide interest for the public, locomotives were turned, coaled and watered to demonstrate the techniques and technicalities of steaming. The programme ensured that the public always had some activity to watch and, just as importantly, knew where to find it.

One of the highlights of our many runs on No.8 road was the double-heading with locomotive 532 Blue Peter. My colleague on Blue Peter decided to make 9466 work hard and we had to pull Blue Peter and the two carriages on a rising gradient towards the Paddington end. The resulting exhaust beat gave me mild palpitations and thrilled onlookers.

Later in the week we were rostered to give the ever-popular demonstration on the 'Mail Run'. The idea of the exercise was to back 9466 plus two coaches, as far towards Paddington as possible, to gain the maximum run on second valve, full gear. The first run was a great success, on the second we had a smashing time as the apparatus disintegrated before our eyes. The dubbing 'the Aylesbury Wreckers' was, I suppose, inevitable. In fact, it transpired that the apparatus had been cracked for many years.

The postal drop and collection apparatus wasn't the only item requiring attention and repairs. 9466 nearly needed a lot more straightening than a bent regulator handle when the regulator stuck fully open on one of the double-headed runs with Blue Peter! Part of the more general maintenance requirements were boiler washout and thirteen day examination and the visit of a BR boiler inspector, Western Region, who witness yet another steam-test and issued 9466 with its six-monthly BR boiler certificate.

Another memorable day saw fireman Graham and myself on the branch line with a mixed branch train (e.g. four freight wagons and passenger coach) when news of problems began to filter through. All over the site engines were failing with poor fires and no steam. Meanwhile, we found ourselves in an awkward position, Graham having marooned me on the drivers side with fire-irons. There was no time even to rack them as we discovered that we were the only steam loco moving. The officer of the day arranged for us to take No. 8 road and railcar as the branch line. The day was saved, thanks to my fireman.

After that exhilarating day, being the centre of attraction, disaster struck, as the grate collapsed during ash removal. Being the only standard No. 10 boiler at Didcot, there were no spares to be had without returning to base. Fortunately, that weekend my sister was providing temporary digs at Wallingford in her caravan, being the Bank Holiday, so I was chauffeur-driven on a mercy dash to Quainton and back late in the evening. Fire bars in hand, the first job of the following morning was to fit the new grate into a very hot firebox!

As each day drew to a close, the engines were rostered their place on the disposal pits for fire-dropping, smoke box and ash pan cleaning. The only exception was the locomotive chosen to be the day's 'fun engine' on No. 8 road. This gave the visiting crews, stewards and helpers a chance to try out other locomotives and have footplate rides. On the final Saturday there was an extra bonus for those who had participated in the fortnight's events, in the form of a barbecue and beer tent.

By the time the event was drawing to a close, it was quite apparent that the main event of 1985, GW150 at Swindon, had been cancelled. One by one the visiting engines left and goodbyes were said to many new friends. We elected to stay a little longer, as there was a chance of further venues in the pipeline, but, alas, these came to nothing.

It was on a Monday morning
BR men came to call
"We can't show your loco
Swindon railway works are closing ...
You know!"


Notes:
The text in this Quainton Railway Society publication was written in 1986 and so does not reflect events in the 28+ years since publication. The text and photographs are repeated verbatim from the original publication, with only a few minor grammar changes but some clarifying notes are added if deemed necessary. The photos from the original publication are provided as scans in this internet version of this long out of print publication.

Reference:
GW150 Didcot - No. 58 - Autumn / Winter 1985 / 86


Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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Page Updated: 15 November 2017